What are Nuisance Calls?

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  • Written By: K. Testa
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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Nuisance calls are unsolicited telephone calls made to a person’s home or business number, cell phone, or fax line. They can include calls from telemarketers, calls seeking political support or donations, hang-up calls, or a number of other unwanted contacts. There are several ways to deal with nuisance calls, including reporting them to the phone company and getting a Caller ID service. Customers in the U.S. can also register with a national database that will add their phone numbers to a “do not call” list. Many people choose to contact law enforcement officials if the calls go beyond simply being a nuisance, and instead appear to be harassing or threatening.

People may receive nuisance calls for a variety of reasons. Telemarketers typically sell their products and services over the phone. In addition to direct sales, telemarketing can also include advertising and market research. People might consider these calls to be nuisance phone calls if they involve a long conversation or a list of questions, or if the callers contact them at an inconvenient time.

A common problem with nuisance calls is the potential for telemarketing fraud. Callers who engage in fraudulent tactics often target specific populations, such as the elderly. These callers also frequently attempt to sell them nonexistent products or involve them in pyramid schemes. In many cases, callers might ask for money, bank account numbers, and other personal information. People with fax machines also might receive junk faxes, which often are just unsolicited advertisements.


Many people contact their local phone companies to report nuisance calls, in the hope of it investigating and documenting where the unsolicited calls are originating. Sometimes the phone company can suggest strategies for screening calls. One way to deal with nuisance calls is to get a Caller ID service. However, Caller ID often can be blocked or spoofed. In addition, callers can use pay phones or disposable cell phones, so this type of attempt to track them may prove futile.

In the U.S., the National Do Not Call Registry assists those who wish to stop nuisance phone calls. People can register up to three telephone numbers at a time, and have the option to file a complaint if they are still receiving calls from telemarketers after 31 days have passed. Registration is permanent and therefore no longer requires periodic renewal, thanks to the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act that took effect in February 2008. Outside the U.S., consumers have various options for dealing with unsolicited calls. The local phone company or a consumer protection organization are two possible starting points.

Harassing or threatening calls are potentially more serious than nuisance calls. A person receiving these types of calls should consider contacting his or her local law enforcement agency directly. In many places, making harassing phone calls is treated as a criminal offense, with severe legal consequences.


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Post 1

In my state it's legal for bill collectors to make automated calls. I'm getting repeated phonebot calls from somebody trying to collect a debt from somebody I don't even know. No! I will not call them to explain that Gloria doesn't live here.

What I do instead is to just call back their 800 number and put the phone down. This ties up their phone for a while. It's no trouble to use the redial button. I try to give them six to one. Six calls from me for every one of theirs. I'm starting to enjoy this.

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