Unwanted calls

Put an end to unwanted calls and texts. Crank calls, prank calls, hoax calls, nuisance calls. Call it what you want, but you don’t have to put up with nuisance calls or texts.

Unfortunately, many of us have unwanted phone calls or texts at one stage or other. These can be for many a reason. Here are some scenarios:

  • strangers getting a kick out of unsettling other strangers
  • toddlers pressing buttons on parents’ phones
  • teens/children having what they think is a laugh
  • school bullies
  • radio show presenters making fun of people
  • genuinely misdialled numbers
  • silent 6am calls from people with a vendetta against you
  • bored and lonely individuals texting numbers with strange questions

The actual content of a nuisance phone call or text can vary from silence to the obscene as can how the caller even has your number. But when is it time to act? And what should you do?

How to respond

We asked An Garda Síochána for some advice.

Their advice is not to engage with a phone caller that you do not feel comfortable talking to and to never give out personal details over the phone e.g. address, age, bank details etc.

The same goes for a text message – you do not have to reply.

The bottom line is do not engage with the nuisance caller, this will only encourage them to keep calling you and upsetting you.

Take note

What you can do is take note of the calls or texts eg time, length of the call, what the person says, background noise or anything you notice about their voice or accent.

If you’ve tried the silent treatment and the calls or texts are still arriving it’s time to get in touch with your phone line provider/operator and possibly your local Garda station.

Blocking a number and contacting the Gardaí

The Gardaí advise: "If the calls become repetitive your carrier should be in a position to block a number for you, and if you receive an excessive amount of calls, of an abusive nature or otherwise, contact your local Garda station who will be able to investigate."

Your mobile phone operator or landline provider may also be able to help block a certain number from calling or even texting your number.

For example, eMobile and Meteor can block a known number if a customer requests this.

"If the number is withheld the recipient of the nuisance calls will need to contact the Gardaí to report the nuisance calls. The Gardai will then approach the recipient’s network provider to investigate the call data. The Gardai must make this request to initiate the investigation to take place. Once the investigation has been carried out and the operator identifies the number, it can then be blocked," a spokesperson for eircom Group told DoneDeal.

Facilities and procedures vary from company to company, so it's a good idea to pick up the phone and ask customer care can they block a number for you.

Some mobile phone handsets also have the facility to block incoming calls from certain numbers – have a look at your user manual or find out if there’s an app that can do that.

Withheld, unknown, unavailable and blocked numbers

In the days before caller ID and before mobile phones, prank or nuisance calls were a mystery to the person who answered the phone.

Nowadays phone owners are equipped with a certain amount of information: the actual phone number the call is coming from or the lack of a phone number eg withheld, unavailable, unknown or blocked may flash up on a landline with caller ID or a mobile phone.

The lack of a number doesn’t mean that the nuisance calls can’t be investigated.

According to eircom, "Customers who receive nuisance or prank phone calls to their mobile phone from a withheld number should report the incidences to the Gardai. The Gardai can then investigate the calls with the mobile operator. Operators are not permitted to investigate calls unless a request is made by the Gardai."

"Customers can contact us to seek advice on how to deal with nuisance calls. We would advise customers not to answer the phone to a withheld or blocked number if they are receiving nuisance calls. Customers can also request to change their mobile number and ask for their number to remain ex-directory."

Sales calls

If you’re receiving sales or marketing calls from a company asking if you want to advertise your items for sale elsewhere you can report them to the Data Protection Commissioner.

Read our help section on unsolicited sales calls advice or an article about how to deal with unsolicited sales calls.

Do an online search

Have you ever Googled your own number? It can be amazing where your number appears online and the same goes for the phone number of the person phoning/texting you.

Google the phone number a few times in different way eg 087XXXXXXX, 087-XXXXXXX, +353 87 XXXXXXX or (087) XXXXXXX. How you separate the phone code from the rest of the phone number can throw up different results.

Serial crank callers/texters’ numbers may appear in an online forum for example where others with the a similar experience have shared details.

If you discover you’re just another person this caller has annoyed, why not make sure you’re the last by contacting the Gardaí about it? Call into your local Garda station.

Disposable sim cards

There are more mobile phone numbers than people in Ireland. At the moment anybody can buy a sim card and start making phone calls without having to verify any personal details.

While some people may buy a sim card with the sole purpose of anonymity and nuisance calls, you don’t have to have watched CSI or The Wire to know that it's very hard to stay 'off grid' even with a supposedly untraceable sim card.

Help pages on phone operator websites

Meteor support.meteor.ie/article/block-number

Vodafone vodafone.ie/aboutus/code/carepolicies/bullying/

O2 community.o2online.ie/t5/Help-Support/Handling-Nuisance-Calls/ta-p/519345

eMobile helpandquestions.emobile.ie

Tesco Mobile tescomobile.ie/support/question.aspx?id=47

Three.ie three.ie/explore/about-three/corporate-responsibility/