Scam-call blocking device to be trialled by CFFC

Cecilie and Graham Dyer are no longer stressed about answering their phone thanks to a trueCall device supplied by the CFFC.

A call-blocking device that prevents scammers and unwanted callers from harassing landline owners will be trialled by the CFFC, which is calling for volunteers.

The trueCall device has proved so successful in Britain that the British Government has allocated £500,000 to install trueCall devices in the homes of elderly and vulnerable people. British Telecom also supplies units for free. The machines block all recorded messages, silent calls and calls from numbers not pre-identified by the homeowner.

The CFFC’s Fraud Education Manager, Bronwyn Groot, trialled the first unit she brought into New Zealand with a couple in Nelson, Graham and Cecilie Dyer. The Dyers, aged 85 and 83 respectively, were at their wits’ end after dozens of late night calls, many from overseas numbers and potentially from scammers.

After Groot hooked up their landline to a trueCall unit, all unwanted calls stopped immediately. The Dyers initially thought the scammers had simply moved on to other numbers, until Groot showed them the data from the unit’s software interface. Over a four month period it showed nearly 500 calls had been blocked, from countries as diverse as the UK, Turkey, Australia and Tunisia.

“Mrs Dyer broke down in tears,” recalls Groot. “She and Graham said the device had literally changed their lives. They had gone from being stressed to the point of being unwell, to feeling like they could answer their phone in confidence again.”

Many people, particularly the elderly, need to retain their landlines because they may have medical devices connected to them, it is how they connect to their social network and healthcare providers, and they do not feel confident in using digital phones. Unfortunately, scams and nuisance calls made through landlines have increased markedly in recent years, causing acute stress to those who feel invaded in their homes by unwanted callers.

The CFFC has now bought 25 trueCall units, valued at $170 each, to trial for three months. Data will be compiled and a cost-benefit analysis completed to assess their effectiveness. British trials have shown that for every £1 spent on a trueCall unit, £36 are saved in funds potentially lost to scammers. Added to this is the relief of mental stress, which can lead to physical ill-health.

We are now looking for participants from throughout New Zealand to take part in our trial. They need to have a landline, have received numerous nuisance calls, and be prepared to take part in pre and post-trial interviews.

Potential participants can email to express their interest.

Groot says she hopes to start the trial as soon as possible. “Ultimately we would love for a telephone company or the government to back the technology and supply units to vulnerable consumers, as has happened in Britain.”