A scourge on modern-day life, unsolicited robocalls are becoming increasingly popular despite the fact that they are illegal.
A robocall is a recorded, automated message that rings your landline or mobile phone number. Most often they are trying to sell you something or entice you into a deal.
But, unless you have given your consent to receive them, they are illegal – yet no company has been fined for making them.
And the reason that they are becoming the norm is because they are so cheap to make.
Calls made from real people in a call centre cost between 20p and 30p to make.
Robocalls cost less than a penny. Which means that they can make hundreds of thousands of calls and, even if they only find one or two people who want to carry on with a deal, they can still make a profit.
But while some may just think they are annoying, they can become a real source of anxiety for an older person, or someone with dementia.
Steve Smith, who runs trueCall, a company which provides call-blocking systems to prevent nuisance calls, said: “There is evidence that call centres are targeting the older, more vulnerable consumers – using high-pressure sales techniques to sell vitamin tablets, insurance for household items, or to make a charitable donation.
“The number of nuisance calls received on mobile phones is increasing all the time as the telecoms costs of calling a mobile get close to the same level as landlines.
“Nuisance calls on your mobile could arrive while you are driving, while you are at work or while you are out with friends so they are much more intrusive than calls to a landline. Many of these calls are speculative and indiscriminate (ie random dialling) so children also receive them.”
And Steve said that last week’s raft of late-night calls will have happened because someone programming a machine to make the calls put in the wrong details, or pressed a button at the wrong time.
But it is believed that these calls were made from an international telephone number which makes it harder to track.
A number of parliamentary groups have been set up to look at the issue of nuisance calls in general, while our campaign is focusing on the ever-increasing number of robocalls.
There are a number of ways in which calls can be blocked such as the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), phones which block calls and specific call-blocking technology. But with the exception of the TPS they all come at a price.
Not all robocalls are illegal. If you have signed up to a company or service that uses robocalls and you have given your consent for them to contact you, that call is legitimate.
A spokesman for the Information Commissioner’s Office said: “We know that a large number of nuisance calls have been made in the North East within the last week and we are working to identify the company responsible.
“To do that we need as much information as possible about these calls. We would urge anyone who has received a call to help us by using the online reporting tool on our website to provide our office with details of the call they have received.
“Those without an internet connection can also provide us with this information over the phone by calling our helpline on 0303 1231113.”