Monday, 14 March 2011
Prank calls to 0800 numbers are free to make and companies have to pay to receive them. A caller ID lets you know if the number is withheld, but there is no fool proof way of knowing if a withheld number is a genuine customer or a prankster.
To many people making prank calls, they are a hilarious bit of fun, perhaps best epitomised by Bart and Lisa Simpson from The Simpsons regularly phoning hapless bartender Mo and persuading him to shout to his crowded bar that “I wanna Seymour Butts.” However, there is often a darker side and more sinister side. Rubbish – it’s all childish, harmless fun you might say, but to the poor individual constantly on the receiving end of these calls, it really is no laughing matter. David Clarke, a telecoms expert and Director of DBS Telecoms looks at the more serious side of prank calling.
“Many prank callers activate the withheld facility which is provided by service providers to maintain their anonymity. Therefore, one way of avoiding receiving these calls is to avoid answering withheld numbers, although this comes with disadvantages. You may dismiss a withheld call and accidentally ignore a potential customer, so it is important you understand the risks involved when choosing not to answer a telephone call”, warns Mr Clarke, who usually does everything possible to provide a service to his customers to ensure that they never miss a single call, such as providing 0800, 0844 and 0845 numbers which divert to a multitude of different numbers.
One way of avoiding this problem is by having a CID (caller ID) display which will show the exact number that is calling your 0800 number before you answer the phone, so you know immediately if it is a withheld number or not. If it is a one off prank caller, answering a withheld number may not having massive financial implications. However, if it is a serial caller calling your 0800 number then you are paying for the calls. Therefore, rejecting or ignoring a withheld number can avoid costly, unproductive monthly bills. It is essentially a fine line and a matter of judgement as to whether to keep answering withheld numbers which may be customers or prank callers, or whether to ignore them and potentially risk losing valuable customers.
However, if prank phone calls on your 0800 number become harassing or threatening, it can be worthwhile involving the police to deal with what is essentially anti-social behaviour. Although it is possible to track a withheld call, more often than not you may need police authorization to do this as they decide on how severe the matter is. Consider the seriousness of the case before deciding to call the police so that you don't waste their time as well as your own.
Although prank calls may be funny to the caller, they can have negative repercussions such as financial or personal ones to the recipient. Continuous prank calls to an individual are effectively bullying, and may lead to the recipient suffering from long term mental illness, being afraid to go outside their door, and living in fear of their lives. The caller may know that it is just a bit or harmless fun, but the recipient may feel that it is someone trying to do them harm. You could ruin someone’s life with prank calls. So if you ever consider making a prank call, always think twice, you can be traced and even end up in the hands of the police. A criminal record can ruin your own life too, so think carefully before picking up that phone.