How do I save my voicemail forever?
July 29, 2005 9:12 PM   Subscribe

How do you get a voicemail off your cell phone and recorded for posterity?

I may need to sue somebody, and I have a voicemail that might help my case, should it ever come to that. My cell phone service (Cingular) only lets me save voicemail messages for 2 weeks, and the CSR I spoke to said he couldn't provide me with an official recording. How should I save this in case it ever needs to be used as evidence? My phone does have a headphone jack.

And would a homemade recording of a voicemail hold up legally? How do I make sure its authenticity isn't questioned?
posted by anonymous to Technology (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You need to get a lawyer. The lawyer can advise you as to how important the recording is, legally, and what records of it need to be kept -- perhaps a notarized trnascription. In severe cases, there's always a subpoena -- which you can bet Cingular would respond to right quick.
posted by dhartung at 9:56 PM on July 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

There's no way to make sure its authenticity isn't questioned. However, the best way to make it hard to question it is of course to make as good quality a recording of it as possible.

I think dhartung's idea is a good one, but, in the meantime, you should try to make a recording of the voicemail on cassette tape or, better, on a digital medium of some sort. Your computer probably has the ability to record sound files, though it may not have a microphone; purchasing a good enough one for this purpose shouldn't run too much money.

I suggest dialing into your cell phone voicemail from a land line, and recording off of that, either using a headphone jack (if your phone has one) or by simply putting the earpiece next to the microphone. Make sure you record the whole process, and make sure the complete "envelope" information is played as well (including date & time, and, if available, the originating phone number).
posted by cerebus19 at 10:12 PM on July 29, 2005

Call your cellphone from a landline as cerebus19 suggests, and use the tips in this other recent thread to record it.
posted by vacapinta at 1:26 AM on July 30, 2005

Calling the voicemail box from a landline would provide better line quality, but holding a microphone up to the earpiece will take away more than you gain from using a landline.

Best possible scenario for sound quality: Call from a landline phone that has a 3/32-inch headphone jack. Record to a computer that has a microphone jack. Connect them with about $15 worth of parts from Radio Shack. Here's what you want:

- Connect the headphone jack to a stereo 3/32-to-1/8 inch adapter.
- Connect that to a 1/8 inch-to-dual-RCA adapter that separates the two signals (usually thought of as left and right channels, but in this case one's the mono input and one's the mono output).
- Figure out which of these is the output (by trial and error) and connect it to a standard RCA cable.
- Connect that to an RCA-to-1/8 inch mono adapter.
- Plug that into the computer's microphone jack.

With this setup, the only way you'll be able to hear what you're doing in the voicemail prompts is if the recording software you use allows you to monitor the signal (i.e. play it through the computer's speakers) as you record. If you can't find software that will do this, you'll need a second phone on the same landline that you can use to listen, but this will significantly degrade the quality of the recording.

All of the above could also be used for a headphone jack on most cell phones, but again, the sound quality would be a bit degraded.

Once you have the digital recording, you can dump it to tape, burn it to CD, etc. as many times as you need to. Unless there's a whole lot of money involved, it seems unlikely that someone would make a serious attempt to challenge the authenticity of the recording.
posted by jjg at 2:56 AM on July 30, 2005

You can get a phone recorder thingy from Staples, etc. for just a few bucks (I forget the actual name for the device). It's got a phone jack plug at one end, and a 1/8 inch plug at the other that can plug into a microphone jack or a headphone jack. In between is a switch to change between playback and recording (depending whether you've plugged the 1/8 inch into a headphone jack or a microphone jack).

The evidence that the recording is authentic is that you testify under oath that it's authentic.

You do need to see a lawyer now.
posted by winston at 6:48 AM on July 30, 2005

Buy this, plug it into your computer's mic-in port, run your phone cord through it and call your voice mail from a landline. I know it is called a recorder control but it also converts from a phoneline to a standard microphone-in plug. If you are running windows just use the little sound recorder program that you can find by going to accessories then entertainment.

Lawsuits suck.
posted by 517 at 6:59 AM on July 30, 2005

There is a service called spooftel that will allow you to call your voicemail and check your messages like you normally would, but for $1 it will make a digital recording of the entire telephone call and send it to your email address.

This is how it would work: after you login to the system, click make call. You are then asked to enter 3 different phone numbers:
1.the number you are calling FROM (your home number, for example)
2.the number you are calling (your cingular number)
3.the number you want to show up on the caller id (again, your home number) you want to show up on caller id (leave this blank, it's irrelevant and does not work anyway)

There is a box that you can check if you want the system to record the 'conversation' for $1. Check this box and click 'place call.' The system will call you and as soon as you pick up, it will dial your cingular number where you will check your voicemail like you normally would. That simple.

When you finish the call, you will receive an email with the digital recording. The call itself costs .10/minute so you're looking at less than $2 for everything.

Good luck.
posted by camfys at 4:32 PM on July 30, 2005 [2 favorites]

You can also buy one of these, plug it into the 2.5mm headphone jack on your cellphone, pop the other end into the digital or analog recorder of your choice, and play your voicemail messages. It has a small preamp built in (battery-powered) so it boosts the headphone signal a little; I have used it successfully with both a wireless telephone and a cell phone to record interviews for podcasting.
posted by enrevanche at 7:21 AM on July 31, 2005

enrevache's linked gadget will likely not work with a Nokia cellphone, fyi, for the same reason that generic headphones don't either - some kind of whacky impedence.
posted by phearlez at 2:23 PM on August 1, 2005

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