This week First Orion, the makers of the call blocking and reporting app PrivacyStar for the BlackBerry, announced a new update that should help stop telemarketers who are using random digits to “spoof” their number to fool caller ID. The app will allow BlackBerry users to enter a customized series of numbers or entire area codes to block, so spoofers can’t get through. Jeff Stalnaker, CEO of First Orion helps explain some benefits of this app:
AllBusiness: Telemarketing calls are really starting to pick up again, and this can be a problem for those with limited minutes on their phones and can even result in roaming charges. Why isn’t more being done in the way of legislation to stop this?
Jeff Stalnaker: With respect to mobile phones, it’s very clear that more than 50 percent of the consumers receiving telemarketing calls on their mobile phones do not realize that their mobile phone number must also be registered on the Do Not Call Registry. The general public doesn’t appear to be aware and therefore do not register their mobile numbers. This creates further complications with respect to regulators because without complaints being filed by consumers there is little that regulators can do to enforce the existing rules. PrivacyStar enables consumers to easily file complaints and if they are not registered on the DNC registry PrivacyStar informs the consumer and directs them on how to register.
AllBusiness: Since clearly some of these telemarketers are going to find a way to avoid the rules, or flat out break them, can you tell me what PrivacyStar is doing to help consumers and business users?
Jeff Stalnaker: Per the user’s request, PrivacyStar is able to capture all of necessary information – date/time of call, number and identity – to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. This is all done straight from the user’s BlackBerry smartphone. Filing a complaint is an important step in bringing telemarketing violators to the attention of the relevant authorities.
AllBusiness: How does the app address the fact that many telemarketers have started to use programs that disguise the number that they’re calling from?
Jeff Stalnaker: PrivacyStar allows group blocking capability. This means that a user can enter 800 or 866 prefixes and all numbers calling the user with that number will be blocked. Further, a recent trend of spoofing is for the displayed number to be all zeroes. PrivacyStar’s group blocking allows a user to enter 000 as a prefix and all those calling numbers will be blocked. Finally, within the settings menu a user can select to block all restricted or anonymous callers completely.
AllBusiness: How does the reporting part of the app work after you’ve been receiving unwanted telemarketing calls?
Jeff Stalnaker: Once a call is received, you can either choose to block that call or add it to your list of contacts. After you select to block the number, PrivacyStar will ask if you would also like to file a complaint. If the user selects yes, the information is captured and a complaint form is completed. The user can also enter the complaints menu and add any comments about the call such as “the caller used profanity when I said don’t call me.” PrivacyStar automatically submits that complaint, on behalf of the user, to the appropriate authorities.