Receiving unwanted mail and telephone calls can be distressing especially if the recipient is elderly and/or vulnerable. We have listed below some simple steps to take to tackle these problems. Taking these measures are not guaranteed to combat the problem all together but will certainly help.
You can register with the Mail Preference Service to reduce unwanted mail here: MPS Online Mail or call 0845 7034599
Unwanted Landline Calls
You can register with the Telephone Preference Service to reduce unwanted calls including texts and calls to mobiles here: TPS Online Telephone or call 0845 040506
Unwanted Text Messages
There are three main types of spam messages – each needs to be dealt with differently.
These are usually messages that are randomly generated numbers, advertising services such as accident ‘ambulance chasers’, PPI claims handlers or debt write-off firms.
How to spot them: They usually come from an 11-digit mobile number and the company isn’t identified.
These are messages you’ve never asked for and don’t want. They’re likely to be generic, not targeting you personally, though it depends on the company.
Spammers frequently change these messages in order to try and evade detection, resulting in a large number of variants.
These texts WANT any response to confirm you are a real person. Some even try to trick you by saying “text ‘STOP’ to be removed from the mailing list”. IGNORE THIS! (Of course, it can be difficult to split the legit from the not-legit.)
Any numbers that are confirmed are likely to be sold on to injury claim specialists, PPI reclaiming firms or other unscrupulous marketeers who may further spam you with unsolicited calls and texts. Ensure you don’t click on any links within the text either.
What do I do if I get one? There are three steps you can follow when it comes to spam messages. The first two tackle the wider problem – they won’t completely stop them but the more of us that do this the more it helps to reduce spam in the future. The third should help stop repeated targeting from a particular advertiser.
The first option is to report it to your network provider. The big networks have a simple, FREE method to help you do this. Just forward the message to 7726 (spells SPAM), making sure it includes the senders’ number.
The second option is to report it to the Information Commissioner’s Office, which can fine firms up to £500,000 for the most serious breaches of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), which govern spam texts. In 2013, a pay day loans company was fined £175,000 after it was found to be sending millions of unlawful spam texts. To report to the ICO call: 0303 123 1113.
The most direct way of ensuring you don’t get any more messages from a particular number is to simply block the number. Doing so would also block calls from said number.
Unfortunately many companies use multiple Sims to send spam, so blocking one doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t here from them again. If you do it to every sender you get something from it will at least give them one less channel through which to contact you.
The method for doing this varies depending on the device you’re using, please contact see your mobile phone instructions.
These should include the name and contact details of the sender. You will usually have given consent for them to be sent, though possibly unknowingly.
You get legitimate marketing messages when you fail to tick or untick a box (whether on purpose or by accident) and allow companies to send you marketing messages or give your details to third party operators.
If legit, the text will always include the sender, in line with regulations. If you don’t know who the message is from, then BEWARE, it’s probably SPAM!
How to stop them: Firstly, text ‘STOP’. Firms are legally obliged to pay attention to this. However, make sure you are 100% certain it is a legitimate marketing message, or you may get even more spam. If that doesn’t work, try the website of the company named in the message. You should be able to find an option to opt out of receiving its texts. If not, phone the firm and request it stops.
If that doesn’t work, complain to the Information Commissioner, who can punish the firm with fines. To complain to the ICO call: 0303 123 1113.
Again, these are services you have agreed to but you may be unaware that by buying a service, or game, on your mobile you’re getting a regular, charged text.
How to spot them: It will be from a four, five or six-digit number and will bill you for receiving the message.
These are sometimes called ‘reverse billed’ messages. It’s where you get charged for receiving a text to your phone. These are becoming more and more common – normally for subscription services such as games, or weather/news updates.
Often you will have signed up for these services in the past, but subsequently forgotten or not cancelled. The cost can run into £100s, so act quickly to avoid paying a fortune.
How to stop them: Here you should reply STOP or STOP ALL, in order to block future messages from that company.
This should work, but if the messages keep coming, use premium-rate regulator Phonepay Plus’s number checker. Simply enter the number and it’ll give you contact details for the company, which you can use to request it stops the messages. Alternatively get in touch with your network provider and ask it to stop the messages.
If this fails and you’re still tearing your hair out, the final stage is to get in touch with Phonepay Plus and it will investigate your complaint.
Stopping instant messaging spam
Many increasingly use instant messaging services like WhatsApp and Viber as an alternative to texting – and inevitably, a deluge of spam’s followed suit.
Dealing with it can require a different approach though – it tends to be less targeted, and because these services operate via third parties and Wi-Fi, reporting the number to your network wouldn’t necessarily stop them.
However, the nature of many instant messaging apps means anything sent should have a number attached to it, so reporting it to the Information Commissioner’s Office may still be useful.
There’s currently no specific procedure for reporting spam on WhatsApp or Viber, though you can contact their general support teams and those of any other apps to let them know about it.
To try and stop any further messages, they suggest blocking the number within the app – instructions on how to do this can be found on the WhatsApp and Viber websites. For other apps and services, see their respective FAQs/websites.
There is lots of good information about consumer issues on the CAB advice guide website.