Calls from unknown numbers will be answered by Fuss Free Phones operators, allowing only trusted callers to get through to users
Are you plagued with nuisance calls, possibly from fraudsters? Do you worry that an elderly parent or relative might be conned into parting with their cash by scam callers? A new phone company is promising to bring back old-style operators, who will screen out scammers and unexpected sales calls.
The service, called Fuss Free Phones, will cost users £20 a month, and is largely aimed at the elderly who live alone, and those who struggle with poor health or eyesight. If a call comes from someone who is on a “trusted callers list” then it is put through. But any call from an unknown number is answered by the receptionist.
Scammers are sent packing, PPI calls are banished and “Microsoft” engineers wanting access to your computer are barred. Receptionists unsure whether to connect a call will call the subscriber’s designated person who will decide whether to pass it on or not.
Users will have to buy a special handset costing £80 to access the service, which is designed to look very similar to a standard home phone, with large keys designed for people with bad eyesight, and uses the O2 network. With elderly people receiving an average of 39 nuisance calls a month – 50% more than the general population – the service claims it will put a stop to the problem immediately.
Scammers have increasingly targeted older people because they can often be confused or more easily duped. Last week Guardian Money ran a story of a couple in their 80s who lost £134,000 after being phoned at home by bank fraudsters. Customers have to give the firm a list of the numbers of friends, relatives and organisations that are likely to call them.
These numbers are then programmed into its system, using software originally developed to protect undercover police and murder case witnesses. Advertisement If customers want to make a call, they simply pick up the receiver, press the button and ask the operator to put them through. Alternatively, the user can ask the telephonist to find information on the internet or even to book a taxi. Simon Rockman, founder of Fuss Free Phones says the service, which has been endorsed by a number of charities including RNIB, will answer 80% of calls within 20 seconds. He is working on a landline version, but says technical issues mean it’s a year away.
Another popular service used to screen out unwanted calls is the trueCall Call Blocker, which promises to screen out 95% of nuisance calls. It works on landlines and costs £100, with no monthly fee after that. The Telephone Preference Service allows you to opt out of unsolicited sales and marketing calls, but critics say it is widely circumnavigated by scammers.