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What to do about
Nuisance Calls
to get rid of the problem of
Phone Hoaxers
causing worry and upset.

Making phone calls to annoy people is a form of harassment and is now regarded as a criminal offence, a psychological form of assault. It is taken quite seriously, and is not "harmless". Police and the criminal justice system will prosecute antisocial behaviour of this type. Also, ISPs and telephone companies are keen to take action to remove abusers from their systems.

If you are the victim of attacks by phone hoaxers, the first thing to realise is that, in general, people who make hoax phone calls are in some ways psychologically deficient and are doing this as an attempt to compensate for their own inadequacies. This goes further than the idea of "they haven't properly grown up" and is often symptomatic of an underlying personality fault similar to that found in cases of other types of Abuser.

The second thing to be aware of is this: Yes! You CAN do something about it. Even if the hoaxers are withholding the phone number, using a mobile phone, using other people's phones, or using random public call boxes, they can be caught, and they often are, much to their surprise. When caught, they can be punished. Punishments for psychological assault and telephone misuse vary from place to place, but are generally to a level where the guilty party will not be smiling about it afterwards.


The methods for dealing with the problems of phone hoaxing are twofold: Psychological defences, and practical action.


Let's not underestimate the psychological aspects. It's very annoying to have ignorant oafs phoning you up and saying stupid things. If late at night and/or if you feel the tone is threatening, it can be especially upsetting. But you have to build up your psychological strength to have some defence against this. The attackers are not making themselves look big by it, and by indulging in such puerile practices they have already demeaned themselves. If you lived in a fortified castle and you heard that someone was throwing bad fruit at the outer walls, you'd surely laugh at them from the top of the ramparts!? Your enemy might not even be worth an arrow.


Then again, you might decide that they are worth hitting back, even if only to make an example of them to deter other would-be nuisance hoaxers. The news on this is good, as there are many practical things that can be done.

* Firstly, get CALLER DISPLAY. In the UK, this is now free, thanks to British Telecom! You might have to buy a small gadget, or a new caller display phone, but these are not expensive. See BT SHOP. Around the world, an increasing number of telephone exchange networks also have similar facilities to Caller Display. I've even heard a lyric in a song which goes ..."what the hell is Call ID?!" and "my friends say I should act my age" etc.

Having got Call ID / Caller Display, you can now opt to ignore incoming calls from known sources.

Incidentally, if the caller uses "number withheld", this may be regarded as bad anyway. Many people will not answer incoming "withheld" anonymous calls. "Withheld" is clearly distinct from "International" which also has no incoming number, usually.

(If you have your phone via Vonage, you can block all "withheld" numbers using a free feature (use *77 to turn it on (block withheld numbers) and use *87 to turn it off (allow withheld numbers)) and then such callers will get a message).

* Next, set up a POLICY. This is your set of resolutions on what you are going to do. By having a clearly defined set of rules which you define, you have a consistent logical method. (instead of being swayed by emotions).

* Now the key feature of tackling hoax calls. This is important, and although it may seem at first glance to be weak, it isn't. It's a well-proven method which works, as it generates scientific evidence which can be used in a court case against the perpetrators of the nuisance calls.

Here's what you do:

Get a blank book, a pen, and an accurate clock. Have these near the phone.

When a hoax call comes in, make a note in the book. Note down the exact date and time, the incoming caller number (or "withheld", if appropriate), and the nature of the call, duration, etc.

For hoax calls, you as the recipient should not say anything. By starving the hoaxers of any response by you, they may at some point just give up (and go and annoy someone else, or play with themselves, etc). Bullies of various types are seekers of the cheap thrill, and will be disappointed by your silence. see bullying

Anyway, back to this thing about the PHONE HOAX BOOK. As we already know the hoax calls are a campaign of harassment, if you stick to your principle of writing down accurate logs of incoming hoax calls, you will end up with a record of evidence. Here's the sort of thing:

Date/Time Number Description Duration
2006/05/23 02:20 1234 heavy breathing 20 seconds
2006/05/23 02:23 1234 various people shouting and saying nonsensical things in the background 10 seconds
2006/05/23 02:31 1234 inane laughing 10 seconds
2006/05/24 15:06 1234 someone saying in a menacing voice "I'm going to kill you and torture your cat" and then a few other people laughing in the background, then hung up about 15 seconds
2006/05/24 15:10 1234 various shouted insults, but hard to decipher 5 seconds
2006/05/25 23:38 withheld silence 10 seconds
2006/05/25 23:41 withheld silence 5 seconds
2006/05/25 23:47 withheld silence, apart from radio in background 5 seconds

This is just an example to show the type of thing. If you make a note of incoming telephone hoaxes, it should have a similar form to this.

The thing about a list like this is that it is a testimony of events. The exact times recorded are the key feature, like a fingerprint. This will later be used for matching up to other evidence. The chances are you have your suspicions about who is guilty of this terrible campaign of harassment. When you present your hoax book to the police and the phone companies, they can cross reference it with the suspect's phone. If it is found that your list of hoaxes happens to fit with the suspect's phone log of outgoing calls, then the police will be able to prove the person guilty of being a nuisance caller and they will be dealt with accordingly. The phone company may take a different view of justice in action and may cut off the culprit's phone.

The reason this method works so well is because, although you might in theory be able to write an entirely faked-up hoax book, it would not match up to any phone owned by the person you are accusing. You can see a similar effect in the way people make up six numbers to put on their National Lottery ticket, and then we see if the numbers happen to match up to the actual winning numbers on the National Lottery prize draw!

On being cornered, the hoaxers will most likely make up a variety of poor excuses to try to defend themselves, including the irrational notion used by most abusers, that it was all the fault of the victim. Alternatively, a hoaxer may apologise, in which case it's then up to you to be gracious about it, or not, according to your personal nature.

Either way, the end result is generally that peace is restored; You don't get any more nuisance calls, and the perpetrator does not re-offend.

Other useful contacts:

BT Nuisance Call Bureau: uk 0800 411422

NTL UK Nuisance Call abuse reporting line: 0800 052 1370



BT NUISANCE CALL ACTION LINE: 0800 085 4750 or 08003289393. Now 0800 411422 (office hours 8:30-5:00 mon-fri)

POLICE: (look the number up in your local area)

Also see How to Stop Text Messages

"Trying to psychoanalyse telephone nuisance call perpetrators is always tricky, but usually the reason turns out to be jealousy, or some kind of personal failing in the personal life of the hoaxer. It's best not to get involved. Police advice is to initially ignore hoax messages and if the problem persists, then go for an investigation. Offenders can be prosecuted, but are sometimes let off with a warning, but with their details stored on a police database a bit like the sex offenders register in case they repeat-offend. This usually does the trick, and repeat offenders are rare".

Here's some advice by a helpful ex-telecom correspondent:

BT register the sender and receiver of all calls, it is necessary for the automated billing system. This has been the case ever since the UK 'System X' automated exchange network was commissioned. Even if the hoax caller uses the 141 'number with-held prefix' the caller is registered. But BT don't like to admit this.

If you note the exact time the call was received BT can bring up the number [ and address] from where the call was made; however BT [and TalkTalk and Virgin etc] have a policy of offering a 141 caller privacy service, so they will not divulge the number to you. Neither will they take action against 'idiot calls', several thousand are reported weekly.

There are exceptions to this, such as when the police request a number and a location; in cases involving terrorism, blackmail or death threats. A classic example was the kidnapper Michael Sams who used the same phone box in Sleaford-Linc's to arrange a ransom for the release of his victim. Police were able to stake out the area around the phone box ready for his next call and arrest him.

So my advice.
First dial
1471 just in case the caller forgot to with-hold the number.
Note the time of the call and always report it to you service provider.
If it involves threats to life, threats to children, blackmail, or similar, involve the police.