Reclaim Your Cell Phone


I cancelled my home phone line years ago. Most anyone I know calls me on my cell phone. And I use Skype as an office line. So the only people who ever called my landline were telemarketers. And the last few years have been a relief without them. I’d almost forgotten the annoying interruption of that too-cheerful voice breaking unwelcome into my day to ask me if I, “Have time for a quick survey?” No. I don’t.

But now they have found my on my cell phone. And that’s even worse because my cell phone is always with me. And I pay for minutes on my cell phone and I don’t want to waste those minutes that way.

So when I got an email last week from an outfit called PrivacyStar asking if I would do a phone briefing on its new service. I opened up my Google Calendar right away to find a time.

And a day later, I found myself on the phone with PrivacyStar CEO Jeff Stalnaker chatting about these hateful telemarketers. “Say a telemarketer calls you,” he explained. “After you get him off the phone, you go to your phone’s call log and select the number he called from. Then tell it to ‘block with PrivacyStar.’ From that point forward, that caller won’t ring your phone or go to voice mail. The phone just disconnects on them.”

Ah, vengeance is sweet.

But it gets better. Those telemarketers aren’t supposed to call you if you have registered with the Do Not Call Registry. But they do anyway. “There are over a 190 million people on the DNC list,” says Stalnaker. “And there are a 150 million telemarketing calls made every day. We have estimated that about 30 million of those calls are violating your rights as a consumer.”

I knew they were a slippery and untrustworthy lot! So I asked Stalnaker why they keep getting away with it. “It is too challenging for users to complain,” he says. You need to know the phone number that called you and the time of the call. And you have to take the time to register a complaint. Most people get annoyed but they don’t have the time to register that complaint. “But all the data is right there are your fingertips – in your phone,” says Stalnaker. So if you have PrivacyStar installed on that phone, registering a complaint is a matter of a few clicks. “We are at 15,000 complaints registered since we launched in December,” he says.

Another nifty feature of the service, says Stalnaker, is the call lookup. Say someone calls you and you don’t recognize the number. You don’t want to answer if it’s a telemarketer or someone asking you to bake cookies for a fundraiser. So just ask PrivacyStar to do a reverse search on the number and tell you who is calling – even if they aren’t in your address book. Someone you like? Just click to add that number to your address book.

But here’s the problem that I have with PrivacyStar. I can’t try it because it is – so far – only available for the Blackberry. I sport an Android phone at the moment. So I’ll have to wait about three months before an Android app will be available. Soon after that, it will be available for the iPhone and other Smartphones. But, meanwhile, I can’t get it.

So how about this? If you have a Blackberry, why don’t you take the free trial for a spin and let us know what you think? After 30 days, it costs $2.99 a month. Worth it?

2 thoughts on “Reclaim Your Cell Phone

  1. I just might have to try this when my new phone arrives. (Port got loose, cannot charge or connect to my calendar/contacts. Now it is just dying a slow and painful death while I wait for my new phone to arrive…) I particularly like the ease of reporting telemarketers – it appeals to my sense of justice! Thanks for the tip – if I try it, I will be happy to report back to you and your loyal readers.

  2. We don’t have a landline phone either. We use pre-paid cell phone service. To keep unwanted callers at bay, I use Google Voice. All calls except those that are pre-approved by me go through call screening, and when the call is put through I hear who it is and I have the option to send it to voice mail or take the call. I can also block any callers I choose to. Google Voice keeps an excellent log of all calls. With Google Voice, you select a telephone number and it does not have to be local to you. Then, this is the only telephone number we give out. Therefore, no one has our “real” cell phone number, everyone calls the Google Voice number.

    This is by far the best call screening and privacy service I have ever used. And, it’s free!


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