POISON PEN & NUISANCE CALLS
NOTE: For advice on how to handle nuisance and/or malicious telephone calls go to the bottom of this page.
At very best, the intention of the anonymous letter writer is to pass on unasked for information and/or advice – the content of which he or she is insufficiently at ease with to risk direct involvement. At worst, there would appear to be no depths to which such outright troublemakers are not prepared to sink! Regardless of what the writers may say their intentions are, with the single exception of some Valentine cards, the sending of anonymous communications is NEVER ‘just a joke’!
SOME IMPORTANT DO’S AND DO NOT’S
1) IF YOU RECEIVE GOODS OR SERVICES WHICH YOU HAVE NEITHER ORDERED NOR REQUESTED , contact the company which sent them and ask for order forms and any other details pertaining to the ‘order’ and keep them . Ordering things on behalf of other people is a common nuisance, usually intended as an irritating ‘joke’ and fortunately usually ‘fizzles’ out after a short while. However, receiving a large number of unrequested goods and services [and bills to go with them!] can become a real nuisance. If and when it looks as though the sender has taken up annoying and upsetting people as his or her favourite hobby, then is the time to seek professional advice.
2) ALWAYS TELL THE POLICE, YOUR SOLICITOR OR THE CITIZENS ADVICE BUREAU IF YOU RECEIVE A LOT OF UNREQUESTED GOODS/SERVICES OR AN ANONYMOUS LETTER. Remember that you may not be the only victim; other members of your family, friends, work-mates or neighbours may also be on the receiving end of such missives. The size of the problem and valuable clues to the identity of the writer may never be revealed if each recipient is writhing in solitary rage and despair instead of rightfully voicing complaint.
3) NEVER DESTROY OR MUTILATE LETTERS OR ENVELOPES (or any other contents) without first obtaining advice from the police or a solicitor, investigation cannot take place if the evidence is missing, tampered with or incomplete.
4) FEAR NOT – any threats or demands contained in letters will be taken very seriously by all concerned. There is no need whatsoever to feel at all shy or embarrassed by any part of the letter contents – the very fact that the communication is anonymous is positive proof that any supposed facts are not what they appear to be.
5) STOP AND THINK VERY CAREFULLY BEFORE ACCUSING ANYONE (even indirectly)! Writing similarities can be entirely coincidental and apparent ‘clues’ may have been deliberately inserted to mislead. Resist any impulse to ‘name names’…you may be quite wrong…and YOUR being subsequently accused of defamation of character can only add to your problem (as well as to the letter writers delight!).
YOU MAY BE RECOMMENDED TO CONTACT AN INDEPENDENT DOCUMENT EXAMINER* (the police employ their own – but your solicitor or the CAB should be able to provide some names).
MAKE SURE THAT YOU ONLY USE A FULLY QUALIFIED PRACTITIONER OTHERWISE YOU MAY FIND YOURSELF THE ACCUSED INSTEAD OF THE ACCUSER! IF THE AUTHORITIES FEEL UNABLE TO HELP, THIS IS NOT AN INDICATION OF LACK OF SYMPATHY AND UNDERSTANDING BUT IS QUITE PROBABLY BECAUSE NO CRIMINAL ACT HAS BEEN PERFORMED. TAKE ANY ADVICE THEY OFFER TO THE LETTER (an unfortunate turn of phrase).
IF YOU ARE ABLE TO TREAT THE WRITER WITH THE CONTEMPT HE OR SHE DESERVES BY PUTTING THEM OUT OF YOUR MIND, THEN YOUR PROBLEM IS OVER! IF NOT, THEN READ ON…
*NB: A Document Examiner is an expert qualified in a branch of Forensic Science, trained to assess writing/paper/ink etc. by a variety of scientific means, and is probably a member of the Forensic Science Society. A Document Examiner’s hourly rate can be expected to be similar to that of other professionals such as solicitors or accountants. An Examiner is likely to take at very least 4 hours.
If you decide to enlist the services of a Document Examiner ask your local CAB or solicitor for details, alternatively contact Forensic Science Society , 18a MOUNT PARADE, HARROGATE, NORTH YORKS HG1 1BX. Tel: 01423 50606
IF you are still beset by worries do NOT despair because there are still some further steps you can take in order to regain peace of mind. TO START WITH – THINK! Quell the anger, the outrage and the hurt. Concentrate on the fact that the letter writer is trying to manipulate you or someone close to you – so make sure that you stand firm and don’t let them get away with it! For a start, the letter writer did not reveal his/her identity to avoid being questioned about their motivation…ask yourself why – perhaps the answer is obvious, perhaps not – either way if you think long enough you will come up with something!
You may have received a letter containing information about someone else, it may express sorrow at the way you have been hurt or used by that person…so why was the letter sent to you and not the person it was about…if the writer really wanted to protect you the obvious course of action would have been to contact the person the letter was about and point out the error of their ways! Your letter may be accusing you and/or yours of some sort of wicked action or be a list of your supposed faults. Without knowing a single word of the letter contents, I can provide some answers – the letter writer is trying to provoke his or her victim to react to the letter by doing something – a something that would benefit or please the letter writer – ask yourself what the letter contents might provoke you to do IF you were to believe every word it contained.
If the letter is addressed directly to you and its contents are about you then the chances are very high that the writer feels jealous of you in some respect! Perhaps you are more loved than he or she? Perhaps you are more powerful? Or richer? Or thinner? Or fatter? Or have a nicer home? Or a more talented family?…AND AS A RESULT MAKE THE LETTER WRITER FEEL INADEQUATE IN COMPARISON. The motive for the letter is then obvious…to make you feel less secure, less powerful, less cared for, less anything in fact…just so that the letter writer can feel a little more equal.
Once you start thinking about why the writer wrote or sent what they did, you may well conclude that your letter is actually an upside down compliment! However, if forgiveness and forgetfulness still elude you, there are a few ploys that will hit the letter writer where it hurts WITHOUT costing you a penny and WITHOUT your risking libel or manslaughter charges!
Sad but true – the chances are very high that the letter writer is someone you know well such as a friend, neighbour, fellow churchgoer, society member, workmate or relation. This thought might be unpalatable but the very closeness of the writer means that it will be easy to get a ‘message’ to him/her via whichever of your ‘circles’ he/she belongs.
Let us imagine the letter content (and/or your suspicions) indicate that the writer is a workmate…you might choose to let it be known at your place of work that a member of your household has received an anonymous communication – no need to divulge content details or even precisely to whom the letter was addressed. The result will be anonymous letters and the sort of people who write them becoming THE subject of conversation. Virtually everyone will have their own story to relate [this is often the point when other victims reveal themselves!]…words like busybody, troublemaker and nutcase will be all over the place. The victims receiving full sympathy and the letter writer hearing themselves criticised, condemned and insulted, while totally unable to say a single word in their own defence. [Of course, with a bit of thought, this ploy can easily be adapted to fit your situation].
You might choose to ask opinion as to what action should be taken – most people have a bloodthirsty streak which will be sure to add delightfully to the letter writers discomfort. INCIDENTALLY IF DURING GENERAL CONVERSATION SOMEONE MENTIONS DETAILS FROM THE LETTER OR EVEN THE IDENTITY OF THE RECIPIENT, YOUR ATTENTION SHOULD BE DIRECTED TOWARDS WHERE THEY GOT THEIR INFORMATION FROM…a simple but MOST effective snare on many an occasion! You can invent your own variations on the theme. After a while you might mention the possibility of having the letters investigated by a Document Examiner (see the footnote overleaf.) Say that you understand this could mean having to eliminate even the most unlikely writers such as…work-mates etc. Imagine how worried the writer will feel…and it would be a very unusual coward who was brave enough to keep on writing in these circumstances! Do remember to ‘keep your head’ at this point – the object of the exercise is to stop the letter writers exploits and not to provoke them to go out and get some gullible fool to write another letter, the writing of which will not be recognised.
Above all, stay calm – feel pity for the writer if you can – he or she may be ill and is, in any case, an embittered and pathetic person.
MALICIOUS and/or NUISANCE TELEPHONE CALLS
 MALICIOUS CALLS
All too often anonymous/malicious letters are accompanied by telephone calls of a similar nature …the perpetrator apparently getting a ‘high’ from controlling and/or manipulating their ‘victim’ in as many ways as possible! Fortunately your telephone company will be able to provide some excellent advice …and we recommend that you follow it to [excuse the pun] the letter!!
Some malicious callers may dial your number at random. Others may actually know you. But whichever group they fall into, remember – you’re in control. You can help by taking these few simple precautions whenever you answer your phone.
Most malicious callers gain pleasure from getting an emotional response from the person they call. So keep calm and don’t show any emotions.
DON’T GIVE YOUR NUMBER
When you answer your phone, just say ‘hello’ rather than giving your name and number. Never give any information about yourself unless you are certain you know the caller. This may prevent a caller who dials your number at random from remembering it and calling again. Make sure callers identify themselves first. If you have a telephone answering machine, don’t put your name and number in your opening message.
If the caller asks you to give personal details such as account numbers, insurance details etc. tell them you will call them back on the number you ALREADY have from their documentation rather than call on any number they suggest! If you have no proper, authorised documentation refuse to give ANY information whatsoever.
If a caller asks: “What number is this?”, ask what number they want and then tell them whether they are right or wrong. Don’t give your number unless you know the caller.
Tell other members of your household to follow the same procedure and never to answer any questions on the phone, no matter how innocent they may seem, unless they know the caller.
Answering machine messages should never say that you are out, on holiday or away on business. They should just say that you can’t answer the phone at the moment. If you are a woman using a message recorded by a male voice may deter malicious or nuisance calls.
DON’T TALK TO MALICIOUS CALLERS
If, after following these general precautions, the phone rings again, don’t say anything when you answer it. A genuine caller will speak first. A malicious caller will probably hang up.
If you’re a woman, avoid giving details of your sex or marital status in your phone book entry. Just use your initials instead of your first name.
Some malicious callers may want nothing more than to have a conversation. So put the handset calmly down beside the phone and ignore it for a few minutes before replacing it. If you have a phone with a new-style socket, you can simply unplug it for a short while. Don’t forget to disconnect extension phones too.
Do keep in mind that malicious callers use the phone to hide behind, because most would be too frightened to say the same things directly to you.They are ALL cowards.
If malicious calls become a problem, or you receive just one particularly menacing call, I recommend that you report the matter to your phone company where the matter will receive their closest attention. They will discuss and agree with you the best course of action. This may include tracing future calls or changing your telephone number.
Almost all malicious calls can now be traced whether they come from private, public or even mobile phones, anywhere in the country. A dedicated team of specially-trained operators will work with the Police to put an end to the distress caused by the caller.
In such cases, it would be helpful to the Police and to any subsequent prosecution of the malicious caller, if you keep a written record of the calls, making a note of the date, time of day, whether the voice was a man’s or a woman’s, what was said and whether you heard any background noises and so on.
 NUISANCE SALES CALLS
If you want to put a stop to calls from people wanting to sell you things [often despite their telling you the reason they are calling is to tell you that you have won a valuable prize in a draw you cannot recall entering] simply call your service provider [e.g. BT etc] and tell them you want to be placed on the TELEPHONE PREFERENCE SERVICE list. This list is circulated to all telephone sales companies. If you then receive any such calls you have 2 choices as follows:
[a] Tell your caller that you are on the TELEPHONE PREFERENCE SERVICE list which means you will no longer accept COLD CALLS [a cold call is when someone calls you without having been invited to do so] …and then put the phone down. Reputable companies should have already checked the TPS list!
[b] Complain directly to TPS who will then deal with the offending company!
IMPORTANT NOTE: It is necessary to re-register with the TPS each year.
NB:Sadly TPS only deals with UK based companies at this time