What are malicious communications?

Learn about malicious communications and what you can do if you experience it yourself. You can also find advice on ways to avoid becoming a victim of this kind of harmful contact.

What is the malicious communications act?

According to the Malicious Communications Act 1988, it is an offence to send any type of communication with the intent to cause distress or anxiety. Written before the digital boom, the act was originally used to prosecute cases of malicious communication by phone call and snail mail. However, its scope has since been expanded to cover the multitude of ways we now communicate with each other online as well. Nowadays, the act is frequently used to protect people from harassment and abuse on social media.

A malicious communication can come in any form. This includes:

  • Phone calls
  • SMS
  • Instant messages
  • Social media posts or comments
  • Emails
  • Snail mail

According to the Malicious Communications Act, it is an offence to send any kind of written, verbal or electronic communication that is:

  • Threatening or menacing
  • Indecent or grossly offensive
  • Is believed to contain information that is false or defamatory

Under the Malicious Communications act, an offence occurs as soon as the communication has been sent. It doesn't need to be seen by the intended target, simply sending and intent is enough.

If a person is found guilty of an offence under the Malicious Communications Act, they could face a fine, up to 2 years in jail, or both.

You can find out more about the Malicious Communications Act on the government legislation website.

What constitutes a malicious communication?

Malicious communication is any unwanted call, text or online contact that the sender intends to be menacing, obscene or abusive in nature. So, anything that by its nature makes you feel threatened or contains false or defamatory information about you.

If you feel you have received any kind of malicious communication that breaks the law, you can report it to the police. If you’d like help doing this, you can find more information in the How do I report a malicious communication? section below.

What can I do if I’m the victim of malicious communication?

If you feel you have been a victim of malicious communication, there are a number of things you can do to manage the situation:

If you have received a malicious communication via phone call or text:

  • Do not reply to the offending text
  • Do not engage the caller in conversation
  • Block the caller or whoever sent the text from your device
  • Keep a record of the date and time the call was made and the number the call was made from to make it easier to report

If you have received a malicious communication online:

  • Keep a record or screenshot of the content with the date, time and sender information
  • Do not engage with the sender online
  • Report the person to the social media platform you are using and block them

You can find out how to block and report a person on social media on the provider’s support site.

If you feel you have received a malicious communication that has broken the law, then you should report it to the police. You can find help on how to do this below.

How do I report a malicious communication?

If you feel you have been a victim of an illegal malicious communication, you can report it to your local police online *.

You can also report crimes to your local police force over the phone by dialling 101.

You can find more information on the following local constabulary websites:

How to block a caller/contact from your device

If you have been receiving malicious text or calls over the phone, you can block the number from contacting you again.

How you block unknown or malicious callers depends on what device you have. Select your device from the options below and follow the steps to block a number or contact.


To block a contact or number on your iPhone:

  1. Open the Phone app
  2. Select the Recents tab at the bottom of the screen
  3. Tap the 'i' symbol next to the unwanted number
  4. Scroll down and tap Block this Caller
  5. Confirm your decision

This number will now be block from contacting you by call or text.


To block a contact or number on your Android:

  1. Open the Phone app
  2. Select Recent at the bottom of the screen
  3. Tap the phone number you want to block
  4. Select Block

You’ll now no longer receive calls or texts from this number.


To block a contact or number on WhatsApp:

  1. Open WhatsApp
  2. Select the number or contact
  3. Tap More Options
  4. Select View Contact
  5. Tap Block

You’ll now no longer receive WhatsApp calls or messages from this number.

Unknown numbers

Usually, if you receive a message from someone who is not saved in your contacts, you’ll see a Block or Add option at the top of the chat. Simply hit Block if you’d like to receive no more messages or calls from this number.

How can Virgin Media help?

We never want to see our customers in distress and will do all we can to help you if you find yourself a victim of malicious communications, whether over the phone or online. Here are a few things Virgin Media can do to help if you’re suffering from unwanted malicious calls or online messages.

Change your number

If you are suffering from ongoing and persistent malicious calls, we can change your number for you. Call us on 789 to get started.

Make your number ex-directory

We can make sure you aren’t listed in the telephone directory, making it harder for people you don’t know to get your number. Just give our team a call on 150 from your Virgin Media phone or mobile, or 0345 454 1111* from any other phone.

*These link to external sites are provided as a courtesy. We are not responsible for the content of these sites nor any problems encountered when following their guidance.
**For details about how much it costs to call our team from a Virgin Media home phone, check out our call costs. Call costs from other networks and mobiles vary.

Has this helped?

Let's try something else

We've got other ways of helping