Protecting elderly parents from the curse of unwanted calls and telephone fraud

Protecting elderly parents from the curse of unwanted calls and telephone fraud

High pressure sales calls can be a significant source of distress and anxiety to elderly people. In addition, there is a rising tide of fraudsters trying to scam vulnerable older people.

Now the specialist advice website has provided guidance on how families can help their elderly relatives to prevent the calls and avoid the scams.

“Because many older people buy from catalogues, or respond to newspaper advertisements, their names and telephone contact details can end up being passed on as likely customers to other sales organisations,” says the website’s MD Deborah Stone “and not all of them readily take ‘no’ for an answer.

Simple measures – such as opting out of receiving future information – can help stem the tide, but these boxes are often pre-ticked and buried in the small print. If you don’t opt out, you are agreeing to future contact… not just from that company, but often from third parties.”

The first step to reducing the flow of unsolicited sales calls is to register with the Telephone Preference Service, which is free, and families can do this on behalf of their elderly relatives by going online to

“However,” says Deborah, “that may not be the total answer. Only those telemarketers registered to the TPS will stop calling – and firms may still call you if you’ve previously given them permission to contact you by phone. To stop these calls, you must contact the firm in question (preferably in writing) and ask them not to call you for marketing purposes.

You can do that online at TPS or by phoning 0845 070 0707. But be aware that firms will still be allowed to call you to conduct market research purposes if the call does not include any marketing or collect data for use in future marketing calls… and, of course, some companies still break the law!”

So what else can families do?

If all that doesn’t stop the flow of calls, there are various products and services that can help block nuisance calls, although you may need to pay to use them. Some services ask the caller to give their name before the call is put through to you. “Used properly, that can deter many unwanted callers – and not block calls that you do want to receive,” says Deborah.

“The other options are to go ex-directory or to screen your calls by using a phone with ‘Caller ID’, or using an answer machine or voicemail to screen the call before you answer. But if all that fails, and an unwanted call still get through, it’s well worth helping the elderly person to have a strategy in place to deal with it,” says Deborah.“As soon as the call starts, ask them for their name, company and telephone number, telling them that you want this information to stop all future calls. If they don’t give you that, end the call.

It is perfectly acceptable to just put the phone down. But whatever happens, never give any personal details to the caller – even if they purport to be from your bank, building society or even the police. There’s a good chance that anyone asking for any details, especially financial, will be operating a scam. Not only that, after you put the phone down wait at least five minutes before ringing up to report the call  – this ensures the line has cleared and you’re not still speaking to the fraudster or an accomplice.”

One last tip from concerns dealing with automated marketing calls. “These calls may ask you to press a number to speak to a live agent,” says Deborah. “Don’t! Just put the phone down. If you call the number back, it may cost you a lot of money.”

There are ways to complain to regulators such as the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and Ofcom, and so help stop the fraudsters and unscrupulous sales people from calling you back – and others.

“When you receive a nuisance call,” says Deborah, “make a brief note of the call, including the date, time, name of the firm (if possible) and also the number you were called from (even if it doesn’t look like a valid phone number). Then complain to the relevant organisation or regulator.  You can still complain even if you don’t have all the information available.”

For more detailed advice on avoiding nuisance calls for the elderly, click here