It's possible to slam the metaphorical door in the face of junk mail, landline/mobile calls, texts and emails in minutes.
Sadly there's no perfect route to stop this nasty sales garbage, yet you can minimise it with a few steps, including our Trading Standards-approved "No Cold Callers" sign.
In this guide
If you don't want to receive marketing calls, sign up your home phone and mobile to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). It takes about 28 days for calls to stop.
It's then illegal for firms in the UK and the rest of the EU to call those who've registered, unless you'd opted in to receive them (including if you ticked the often confusing "allow third parties to contact me" box when filling in an online form).
TPS may also stop distressing calls intended for a deceased relative.
How to add your number to the register depends on if it's a mobile or landline:
- Landlines. Add your landline number via the TPS website, or by calling 0345 070 0707 (it costs the same as a standard landline).
- Mobiles. Text 'TPS' and your email address (required to verify your identity) to 85095. TPS insist that the text is free, though some might get a message saying they may be charged up to 15p – see the Spam calls MSE News story. Alternatively, you can sign up online or by calling 0345 070 0707.
Registering won't stop every call
TPS is a register, not an automatic blocking device. While being on it means you'll no longer receive cold calls from more reputable companies in the EU, it's unlikely to deter rogue firms.
TPS also won't stop automated messages – no matter how legit the firm is or where it's based. If you're receiving recorded messages and you haven't given prior permission for these, you can complain to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) on 0303 123 1113. Give it as much info as you can, including the organisation's name (if you've got it), the number the call came from, the date and time, and what they were flogging.
If you're being plagued by calls that ask you to phone a premium rate number (eg, for competitions), complain to the regulator PhonepayPlus.
What about calls from outside the EU?
Frustratingly, many spam calls originate from outside the EU, and there's little that can be done to stop them. So be firm, but polite, don't engage, just tell them to remove you from their lists, and that you will never buy anything from them.
It's worth reporting the calls to ICO anyway, as they might be able to do something.
How to stop silent calls
Silent calls, when you pick up and hear nothing, can be generated by automatic equipment in call centres. If you're getting them, register with the free SilentCall-Gard service. You must renew it every 12 months.
It adds you to a database used by the major telemarketing firms and makes clear you don't want to be contacted, so should cut the number of silent calls. If the calls continue, you can complain to Ofcom, which can fine companies. Here's what to do:
After the call, dial 1471 and see if you can get the number.
Complain to Ofcom online. The regulator fined phone and broadband provider TalkTalk £750,000 for plaguing customers with silent and abandoned calls. See the TalkTalk fined MSE News story for full info.
BT landline customer? Opt in to its new calls filter
If you're with BT, you can now opt in to 'Call Protect', a free, recently launched service that filters spam calls and stops them getting through to your landline. It protects you in three ways:
- It blocks numbers on the BT blacklist. BT proactively scans for the worst-offending nuisance callers nationally – Call Protect will automatically divert calls from such blacklisted numbers to your junk voicemail box.
- You can create a personal blacklist. Add up to 100 numbers to your own list (including the last landline call you received). If many add the same number to their personal blacklists, BT will add it to its own.
- You can automatically block certain types of caller. Call Protect also allows you to divert all calls from international numbers, withheld numbers and/or unrecognised numbers.
Blocked calls will be directed to a 'junk' voicemail box which you can check (or ignore) to your heart's content – but crucially your phone won't ring at all.
To opt in for free, call 0800 389 1572 from your BT landline or sign up via BT's Call Protect webpage (it can take up to 24 hours to activate). For more info on how to use it, see the BT launches spam call filter MSE News story.
There are two different types of junk mail: letters with your name and address on, or those without but still distributed by Royal Mail. Both can be stopped, and if the letters have your name on it, you've got the right to tell the organisation to stop sending them to you.
If you write to the company, once they receive your letter, they must stop sending you the unwanted mail. There's other ways to stop junk mail too.
Addressed mail through the post
All members of the Direct Marketing Association agree to a code of practice not to send junk mail to any individual who has indicated they don't want it.
To stop the junk, simply join the Mail Preference Service (MPS) register. It takes up to four months for the service to take full effect, although you should notice it kick in before then.
Web: The easiest way is MPS Online.
Phone: 0207 291 3310
Unaddressed leaflets and mail
For unaddressed leaflets, flyers and other junk, the Royal Mail has the online door-to-door opt-out, which will stop it delivering to you. Bear in mind this stops all unaddressed items from being delivered, including Government leaflets.
It takes about six weeks for the items to stop arriving, and should last for two years. You'll need to opt out again after this.
Post: Print this form and post it to: Freepost ROYAL MAIL CUSTOMER SERVICES.
Email: email@example.com and you'll then be sent a form.
Phone: 0345 266 0858
For door-to-door leaflet drops, some MoneySavers have suggested using nifty website Online-Sign to create your own sign.
There's nothing more frustrating than people knocking on your door when you don't want to be sold things. Remember, you don't have to let them in.
To help, we've designed a free-to-print, Trading Standards-approved "no cold callers" sign. While the print-out is colour, it's designed for easy printing in black and white too. Click on the images below to print them out.
It may be a criminal offence
Guidance we've had from Trading Standards says ignoring a sticker may be a criminal offence under the Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. While it's not been tested in court, a QC agrees with this so we've added it to our sign. If they knock when they shouldn't, there can be no argument.
Where to stick it?
The best place is on your front door, but as it's a print-out, the colour may run. Tape over the small one, or put it in a clear plastic folder and stick that up. Or if you've glass doors, stick it on the inside to protect from the elements.
No charities or religious groups either... MSE's special No Cold Callers sign
When we polled MoneySavers, a huge 42% said charities think no cold caller signs don't apply to them, and 39% religious groups too.
If you don't want 'em either, we've special MSE No Cold Caller signs. If they knock and you open the door, just point at the sign before politely closing it. Note though, these aren't Trading Standards-approved, as they aren't traders.
Get the MSE sign (click each link to print):
What to do if they keep knocking
It may be a criminal offence for traders (not charities or religious groups) to ignore cold calling signs under the regulations on our sign.
Energy mis-selling on people's doorsteps used to be rife – you might have seen some of the big six energy suppliers in the headlines having been charged massive fines. For more info see our Energy Mis-selling guide.
The big six energy firms have ceased doorstep selling. But if you're approached, don't switch on the doorstep or listen to energy sales pitches.
Changing supplier after being approached is the worst way to switch energy – do it right via MSE's Free Cheap Energy Club comparison.
Not only does it find your best deal, it monitors your tariff to tell you when to switch again, if a cheaper tariff emerges in future.
So if the cold caller persists, note down their name and employee number and report them to the company. You may be able to get compensation.
Buy something when a salesperson calls at your home and the Consumer Contracts Regulations mean you have a 14-day cooling off period on all goods you buy over £42.
If you want to cancel, you're entitled to get any money back, including a deposit, after which you need to return any goods in reasonable condition within 14 days of your cancellation (although you may need to pay for the return delivery).
Similar rights are available for buying online or by phone. See the Consumer Rights guide.
Remember, you don't have to let them in.
Ask to see the salesperson's official ID and find out exactly where they're from.
Don't sign anything, even if they're only offering a quote.
A trader must advise you in writing that you can cancel any contract. If they don't, they can't hold you to anything in the contract.
Spam texts are a modern scourge, plaguing our mobile phones with unwanted adverts, often from dodgy companies. But you can fight back, report them, and minimise the number you get.
There are three main types, and the way you deal with each is different. We've done some hardcore research into it, and have a full separate Stop Spam Texts guide to help.
"How can I stop spam?" is a million-dollar question which, sadly, has no million-dollar answer. There isn't really a solution that works perfectly.
Blocking spam is a balance. There are many software packages that help to do it, but ultimately it's a trade off between losing legitimate emails (like the Martin's Money Tips weekly email!) if they're incorrectly filtered, or keeping more emails and having to manually delete spam.
Spammers are often one step ahead of the game, making it very difficult to keep a lid on. Remember, spam works. Someone, somewhere is clicking on it – even if it's just one person in a million, it may mean a spammer makes money.
The best way to start deleting spam is by using the tools available from your own email provider; spam filters and rules are reasonably effective at blocking spam. You can discuss tips with other MoneySavers in the Techie Stuff forum board.
These are less of a plague than they used to be as faxes aren't as common these days. But you can opt out of junk here yet again, with (you've probably guessed the name now) the Fax Preference Service register. It takes about 28 days after registering for all to be stopped.
Web: The easiest way is FPS Online.
Phone: 0345 070 0702
Programs such as eFax and Faxtastic allow you to receive faxes via your PC. Both give you a special number and your faxes are converted into emails, so even if it is junk there's no need to print it out. These companies hope you'll upgrade to their paid software, which allow you to send faxes.
With the free versions, the number people have to fax you on is an 0870/1/2 number, which can be costly from some providers. Normally we rail against these (see the Say No To 0870 guide), yet as this provides a service, it works well. However, do let non-junk sending people know the cost, as effectively they're subsidising your free fax machine.
Also, to keep Faxtastic active you must receive at least one fax in the first seven days of opening an account, and at least one every 90 days thereafter, or you'll lose the allocated fax number and will have to re-register.
Even if you do everything listed above, it won't be a foolproof solution to junk calls and mail. Yet it's still well worth trying – registering for these services should still reduce the calls and junk mail you receive and it definitely won't increase them.
One good thing: if you're still receiving junk after registering, you know these companies are breaking the law, so they're probably not worth dealing with anyway.
Do remember, though: if you've personally signed up to receive mailings via email or when buying something, you'll have to block these individually.
You may be surprised to read this, but it's important to say. Unlike phone messages where it's all a load of ridiculous nonsense, junk mail can sometimes work in your favour.
A lot of best buy financial products, such as credit cards, are often only available if you receive them as targeted direct mailings. Yet it's only worth keeping this channel open if you're money-savvy and can sort out the wheat from the chaff.