Your Family - Malicious Calls

Left AlignSad as it may seem, some people actually enjoy phoning people to be offensive, menacing, indecent, cause anxiety or inconvenience.

But there is something you can do about it.

If an individual makes a call for any of these reasons it can be an offence under the Telecommunications Act, and callers can be jailed for up to six months.

Some malicious callers choose numbers at random, whereas others may actually know you. Either way, the most important thing to remember, according to BT, is that "you're in control". BT offers a number of useful tips to help you take control and avoid receiving such calls.

Think then act

Most importantly, try to keep calm and don't show any emotion - most malicious callers gain pleasure from getting an emotional response from the person they call. Instead of talking back, simply put the handset down calmly and ignore it for a few minutes before replacing it. If you have a phone with a new-style socket, unplug if for a short while. Don't forget to disconnect extension phones too.

When answering any call, simply say "Hello" rather than giving your name and number - never give any information about yourself unless you are certain you know who the caller is. If a caller asks "what number is this", ask them what number they want and then tell them if they are right or wrong - don't give your number unless you know the caller.

What you can do

Tell other members of your household to follow the same rules, and make sure they never answer any questions on the phone, no matter how innocent they may seem, unless they know the caller well.

If you're a woman, avoid giving details of your sex or marital status over the phone, or even in your phone book entry; just use your initials instead of your first name.
If you have a telephone answering machine avoid using your name and number in your opening message - answer machine messages should never say if you are out, on holiday or away on business. And remember - malicious callers use the phone to hide behind, because most would be too frightened to say the same things to your face.

Get the phone company to help

Telephone operators can do a lot to help their customers tackle malicious calls. They can help you decide the best course of action, which could mean tracing future calls or changing your telephone number. Your telephone operator, whether BT or cable company, will be able to help you if you are receiving malicious calls.

BT say that almost all malicious calls can now be traced, whether they come from private, public or even mobile telephones, anywhere in the country. Phone operating companies often work closely with the police in such cases.

To help with police enquiries, keep a written record of the calls, making notes of the date, time of day, whether the voice was a man's or a woman's, what was said and whether you heard any distinctive background noises.