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A million dollar idea for the right techie

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Everyone who owns a cell phone is well aware of the fact that spam calls and unwanted text messages have become a tremendous nuisance.

Yet, the cell phone companies provide only lip service to implementing a feasible solution. I found that out today in a Facebook conversation with Verizon representatives.

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t receive at least four politically-oriented text messages, and some days I can get a dozen spam phone calls. That’s a lot of interruption!

To me, the solution is painfully obvious, but I don’t have the skill, talent or ability to design an app to correct the problem. So, as a gift to humanity, I’ll pitch my solution in hopes that someone who understands how cell phones work can make $1 million off this idea.

All I ask is that I be allowed to use the app for free. Here’s how my solution would work:

A call comes into a smartphone. Before the phone even rings, the app looks at the incoming number and checks it against all the numbers stored in the user’s contact list.

If the incoming number is stored on the user’s device, then the call is allowed to ring through and the text message can be delivered.

If the number is not stored on the phone, then the call is disconnected before the user’s phone even rings. The caller is not allowed to leave a voicemail, and a text message simply evaporates without leaving a trace.

It’s so simple that a 12-year-old with a basic understanding of app programming could probably make it work in a week. But, I’m not that smart.

No interest by Verizon

When I told Verizon of my idea, the rep simply offered to sell me the company’s Call Filter Plus service. For $3 per month, I could:

  • See the incoming caller’s number and name, if available. That’s a feature I already have.
  • Create a custom block list of unwanted numbers. This will not work because spammers use computers to spoof the incoming numbers. Users can spend all day blocking fictitious numbers.
  • Automatically forward those unwanted nuisance calls to voicemail. Great. Rather than just answering and hanging up on spammers, I would get to call voicemail; enter a passcode; listen to instructions on how to check messages; press a button to hear the date, time and number of the caller; delete the spam message and hang up. That takes a full minute vs. two seconds to just hang up. Unfortunately, hanging up doesn’t do a thing to block spam texts.
  • Create your custom spam list so you can be alerted when specific numbers attempt to call you in the future. Once again, it does nothing to prevent nuisance texts, and forces users to enter a bunch of fictitious numbers into their “customized spam list.”
  • View the risk-level of incoming calls: potential spam, robocaller or fraud. Really? Does that matter? I think I’ll answer the robocaller, but ignore the fraudulent number.
  • Use Spam Lookup to search our spam database to see if a number has already been identified as spam. However, spammers are smart enough to know that by creating fictitious numbers, they can avoid being added to and detected by these type of databases.

All that for just $36 per year, plus tax. What a deal! What a country!

Aren’t phones for my convenience?

When I pointed all this out to the Verizon reps and again asked why the company couldn’t implement my suggestion, I was given this excuse:

“The reason the call will still go to your voicemail is in the event a legitimate call is trying to get through and gets falsely flagged as spam. By allowing the caller to leave you a message, you are able to determine if the call is legit or not.”

In other words, I pay hundreds of dollars to buy a phone and must pay $86 per month for cell service, but the device is not for my convenience. Who knew?

No, I get to pay for a device so that if someone I don’t know wants to contact me for a “legitimate” reason, they have access to my voicemail.

How often does that happen in your personal experience? I suspect it is less than one in 1,000 calls when adding up the legitimate calls from people in my contact list and adding to that total all the spam calls and texts I receive.

So, if someone thinks they can turn this idea into a million dollar app, have at it. The world will thank you and you’ll be richly rewarded.

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Greg Gerber

A native of Wisconsin who moved to Arizona in 2009, Greg Gerber is a DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three grown daughters. He worked as a journalist for many years before pursuing a career as a faith-based writer, author, coach and speaker. Greg is the author of Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life.

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