Rogue traders who bombard the elderly and vulnerable with nuisance phone calls are to be stopped in their tracks by a targeted Government scheme designed to protect those with dementia.
Every year, thousands of complaints are made about nuisance phone calls and in February last year, one firm alone was fined £350,000 for making more than 46 million automated calls.
To help tackle the problem, Prime Minister Theresa May, has today announced the launch of a half-a-million-pound project which will see hi-tech call blocking devices installed in the homes of some of the most vulnerable people across the UK who have been identified by doctors, Trading Standards officials and local councils as being at risk from nuisance callers.
The trueCall devices will completely block all recorded messages, silent calls and calls from numbers not already pre-identified by the home owner - offering particular protection to those with dementia.
The Prime Minister said:
We want to create a fairer society by cracking down on unscrupulous practices which target the most vulnerable.
This new, targeted scheme is the latest step in the government’s fight against nuisance calls, protecting those who are most at risk, including those with dementia.
We have seen people tricked out of thousands of pounds by scam callers and this government is determined to clamp down on their activities once and for all.
The project, which is being funded by DCMS, co-ordinated by the National Trading Standards Scams Team and supported by local Trading Standards departments, is the latest of a series of Government crackdowns on nuisance callers
A similar trial scheme run by the National Trading Standards Scams Team last year resulted in 93% of participants feeling safer in their homes. This included one person who had previously paid £150,000 to a scam caller.
The chief executive of Dementia UK, Hilda Hayo, said:
We welcome this project as some people living with dementia are vulnerable to nuisance callers who offer bogus services and financial schemes.
These calls can not only have a negative financial impact but can also lead to psychological affects such as anxiety, depression and a loss of self-esteem. We frequently receive calls to our national helpline from family members who are concerned that their relative with dementia has fallen prey to rogue traders.
This scheme will see the special devices installed in 1,500 homes. They will screen calls and can either ask callers to enter a security code which only genuine callers will know, or direct them to instead call a friend or relative of the home owner.
Lord Toby Harris, the Chair of National Trading Standards, said:
The impact of nuisance calls – both emotional and financial - cannot be underestimated. We know that these call blockers can make a real difference to people’s lives and give those in vulnerable situations, such as those with dementia, and their families a greater sense of protection and security.
Working with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the Government has already forced companies to display their caller ID when cold calling and given out a series of hefty fines - totalling almost £7 million.
The Government will shortly implement plans to slap company bosses and firms with fines of up to £1 million if they are found to be in breach of Privacy and Electronics Communications Regulations.
Notes to Editors:
The funding for this scheme includes £300,000 to supply call blocking machines with the remaining budget spent on the management of the service and raising public awareness of scam and nuisance calls.
Plans to make company bosses liable follows previous legislation where only businesses were liable for fines. Many of the businesses tried to escape paying nuisance call penalties by declaring bankruptcy - only to open up again under a different name.
The ICO has issued fines totalling almost £7 million since 2012.
In 2015, the ICO received almost 170,000 complaints about nuisance calls.
To report a nuisance call visit: www.ico.org.uk
See what else Government is doing to combat nuisance calls by searching for: #NoNuisance on social media.