These are illegal for two reasons - firstly it seems they do not check the Telephone Preference Service, and secondly because they are calling with a pre-recorded message without agreement from the called party. Both are illegal.
What is interesting is that they are smart enough not to call from withheld numbers now. The latest lot are calling from 0843 numbers, which are somewhat unusual and expensive numbers to call back. They are also calling from different numbers within a large range, presumably to bypass the blocking services offered by some telcos.
So what I did was identify three blocks of numbers that had managed to get calls to me personally (and I am on TPS). In fact they managed to hassle me so many times I got annoyed, hence taking action.
The three blocks so far are 0843960, 0843410, and 0843724. I have made these a "known spammers" list and added a feature to A&A VoIP to allow blocking of such calls. This is default on all unallocated numbers, and was briefly for new numbers.
Now, there have been a couple of queries on this. The lack of transparency of the numbers (as I had not published the list) or the process for getting on the list. No process for how someone appeals to get off the list, and so on.
This is not surprising - and is ironically all of the reasons why we don't block access to some web sites. Being the custodian of the "bad people" list, or even subcontracting that list to someone, is problematic. For email spam, there are well establish software systems for scoring spam that are pretty impartial, and do not generally rely on one source of badness rating.
Even so, I feel these criticisms are valid for the junk callers stuff, and I welcome comments on how to proceed?
- Should I scrap the idea (apart from my own numbers and unallocated numbers)?
- Should have per person sets of junk callers to block (hard work, but possible)?
- Should have some system to crown source junk caller numbers - maybe even a way you press keys on your phone or dial something after the call to mark as a junk caller?
- Could I automate it at all? These junk callers use a pre-recorded message - could I make a system to hash the first few seconds of the callers voice and look for duplicates? Quick, lets patent* that :-)
Whatever I do I'd like it to be transparent, optional, and impartial.
For now, this is no longer default for new lines.
What happens to these calls? Well, they get to a pre-recorded answer saying they will be recorded and published and then sending DTMF, and then asking who the calling company is before telling them they are breaking the law and to f-off. The recording then goes to me to vet (they were warned it would be recorded), which I can usually do by looking at the wave form and not even listening to the call - if it is clearly one of these junk callers, I forward to the ICO as a formal complaint asking them to take enforcement action.
Today the ICO responded saying they will keep the complaints on file but were not able to identify the caller. I pointed out that the calls have a CLI which is almost certainly valid as it is expensive / revenue generating and so nobody would fake someone else's expensive CLI. I even provided the number ranges from the OFCOM list for them and asked them to contact those telcos to identify the callers. I can't be sure the CLI is not spoofed, but it seems unlikely.
The plan is to keep sending to the ICO until they do something.
* I know I can't patent an idea I just made public - you don't need to say.
[update] Oddly ICO say they cannot investigate individual calls! Well why the hell not - the law says I can ask them to exercise their enforcement action and I'm going to keep asking them until they do or the law changes. Grrr.