Publish Date
Sunday, 21 July 2019, 6:30PM

There are some real jerks out there.


Whole organisations set up to take advantage of people like my mum.


She'll be eighty next year and while I wouldn't describe her as a technical genius, she doesn't do too badly when it comes to modern gadgetry.


She has a laptop for example. Okay, she leaves it plugged in and never takes it anywhere, but she knows how to use it.


She has a smart phone. Not sure if she's ever used any actual apps, but she can check her emails and I think she even printed some photos off from it once.


I've given her several lectures about ignoring suspicious emails, being careful about volunteering personal details and obviously I try to keep her computer secure and updated.


So who would have guessed one of her biggest cyber-risks would be the trusty old landline?



Every week we hear another story of someone being conned out of their savings, just by answering the phone. And that's before you get to the raft of unsolicited calls you're forced to deal with from marketing and survey companies. Well, Spark has decided to do something about it, with the Call Screen cordless phone.


The idea, like all good ideas, is simple but effective. Any unsolicited call from an unrecognised number is diverted to the Call Screen's answer service, before it even has a chance to make the phone ring.


The caller is told they're being screened and asked to identify themselves before being put on hold.


Only then will the phone ring. Pick it up and you'll be told who's calling, with a recording of the caller leaving their name. Then you can decide to accept the call or block it. Block it and you'll never be bothered by that person again.


If you're thinking that sounds like a complicated process to set up, the complete opposite is true. The Spark Call Screen is merely a twin set of phones that look, feel and operate pretty much like any other cordless phone and best of all, the call screening function is all set up and ready to go, from the moment you plug the phones in.


You don't even have to record a message - there's an automated one built in to play by default, keeping you nice and anonymous to any prospective con artists on the other end of the line.


Conversely, any caller you allow through won't be screened next time round, or you can add trusted numbers in advance.


The great thing about the Spark Call Screen is any of those annoying automated calls will never get through because robots don't know how to leave their name... yet. Score one for the humans.


The other great thing is this is not some kind of subscription answer service, everything's built into the handsets themselves, so you're only paying a one-off price of $139.99. I think that's pretty reasonable for a couple of high-spec handsets even before you include the call-screening functionality.


The phones feature large, clear colour screens and big, backlit buttons. The ringtones go up pretty loud if you want them to and the phones can be paired with bluetooth devices including some hearing aids. Most operations are easily accessed within a few presses - things like recording your answerphone message and programming speed dials. You can even sync the contacts from your mobile phone.


Best of all - the "Block" button - right in the middle of each handset. Push it and that caller is gone for good... well, almost.


Obviously you can access a list of the numbers you've banned and un-ban them if you have a change of heart. (Or if you blocked them by mistake)


Strangely, while the large, clear keypads on the handsets themselves are brilliant, the controls on the main base - mostly to operated the answer machine - are far more fiddly; much harder to read and positioned right next to each other introducing the possibility of mispresses. I didn't actually have any trouble, but then, I'm not nearly eighty.


There's just one minor flaw in this otherwise robust wall of landline security. Obviously there's no way for the Call Screen to magically recognise withheld numbers. That's not the end of the world of course, because it just means those callers will be screened every time they ring, as they can't be blocked or allowed by default.


The point is, you'd have to be a pretty determined scam artist to work your way around this system and I imagine the vast majority of would-be wrongdoers would give up pretty quickly and move onto easier prey.


So if you don't want to be that easier prey, but you still need a landline in your life, (or your mum does) Spark Call Screen seems like a pretty good investment.



Click here for more information and pricing on the Spark Call Screen cordless phone.

Mike Hosking Breakfast

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