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Malicious and Prank Calls


If a call’s purpose is to cause distress, if the caller uses abusive or sexually explicit language, or if the caller threatens you, your family or your property, then it is a malicious call. Some people are unfortunate enough to receive a barrage of malicious calls, often at anti-social hours, and these can be very upsetting. Making a malicious call can often be a criminal offence.

Prank calls are a type of malicious call that are sometimes carried out by kids ‘for a laugh’. The pranksters may order a taxi or pizza giving the victims address and phone number, or may make reverse charge calls to the victim.

Calls that may at first appear malicious may in fact be less sinister. If you receive a silent call between 8:30 am and 9:00 pm this is much more likely a failed telemarketing call than a malicious call.

Sometimes a malicious caller will select a victim at random by dialling random digits or picking names out of a phone book. If the response to their first call suggests that they have got through to someone who is vulnerable, they will call again. Other times the malicious caller is someone known to the victim; a work colleague, neighbour, ex-partner or family member. Victims often have a very good idea who the caller is.

  • If you have received a call that makes an explicit threat to people or property that is real and immediate, dial ‘999’, otherwise report any threats to your local Police station.
  • If you feel physically threatened and you are alone at home, you can shout something like "I've got it" (as if speaking to someone else) when you pick up the phone.
  • Keep a detailed record of each call. Useful information includes the date, time and duration of the calls, the caller's number (if available), the specific wording the caller used, the caller’s gender, approximate age, any background noises, etc.
  • It is always worth dialling '1471' after a malicious call - normally the number will be withheld, but sometimes callers are unaware that office switchboards generally don't respond to the 'withhold number' 141 prefix.
  • A single incident does not legally constitute harassment, so if you have received a call that you suspect has a malicious intent it is wise to wait and see if it happens again before taking any action.
  • If you receive repeated malicious calls, speak calmly when you pick up and say "Operator, this is the call" or "Call trace" followed by the date and time. The mention of a trace on the line, even if untrue, will worry a malicious caller. Calmly put the receiver down onto the table and leave it there for 10 minutes before hanging up. This shows the caller that you are in control.
  • Don't put gender related details into your phone directory entry (Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms) - use initials rather than your first name. If you are concerned, consider going ex-directory. Women who live alone often get a male friend to record their answering machine greeting and say “We’re not in at the moment” rather than “I’m not in at the moment”.
  • If you've got young children, make sure they know to never give any information to an unrecognised caller.
  • Don’t give your number or your name when you answer a call. Just say "Hello" and wait for the caller to introduce themselves. If the caller claims they have dialled a wrong number, don’t give them your name or telephone number, just ask them what number they want and then confirm or deny it.

If you want to block malicious calls you may find BT’s Choose to Refuse and Anonymous Caller Rejection services helpful. A malicious caller will normally withhold their number, but Choose to Refuse can be effective as it forces them to call from a variety of different phones to get around it.

trueCall can stop you ever having to speak to a malicious caller. Calls from friends are recognised from their Caller-ID and put straight through, but unrecognised callers (or callers who withhold their number) are asked to say their name. trueCall puts them on hold, rings your phone, and announces them - “You have a call from … Bob”. You can choose to only speak to people whose voices you recognise, and you can send other callers to trueCall’s integrated answering machine, or you can Zap them, which puts their number (if it is available) onto your Zap list so they can’t disturb you in future.

trueCall can optionally keep a full log of all the calls you receive including the date, time duration and Caller-ID - this can be viewed at an Internet Control Panel (access is free for the first year then £20 per year). The optional Call Recorder can keep an audio recording of anything a malicious caller says. All this information is valuable if you want to complain about a malicious caller to the Police.