FTC offers $50K bounty for blocking robocalls

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 By

Geoff Peterson

The FTC has had it with robocalls, announcing a $50,000 prize for anyone who can figure out how to block them. Photo Credit: Jody Kurland/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

The Federal Trade Commission is sick of getting complaints from consumers about robocalls, which have been a headache for some time. Since many companies aren’t ceasing the practice, the FTC has announced a $50,000 prize for anyone who can figure out how to block robocalls.

FTC prefers not to take robocalls alive

There is a reason why the “Do Not Call” list exists. Not everyone likes to be solicited by telemarketers and are perfectly happy with their current phone plan, thank you very much. However, telemarketers have since come up with some nasty tricks to get around laws and pester people while they’re eating dinner.

One of the most egregious is “robocalls,” automated phone calls using a pre-recorded message. Robocalling, according to Daily Finance, is illegal, as a 2009 law prohibits the use of robocalls unless a person has authorized a company to call them. That hasn’t stopped the calls from coming and the Federal Trade Commission is fed up.

The agency has been receiving a growing number of complaints and to encourage the practice to be curbed, is offering $50,000 to the person who can figure out how to block robocalls for good.

High Noon for telemarketers

The FTC, according to ABC, received 2,260,021 complaints about robocalls between October 2011 and September 2012, a large increase over the last year and wants something done about it. It’s called the “FTC Robocall Challenge,” open from Oct. 25 to Jan. 17, 2013. Not only does the winning entrant get $50,000 in cash but they also retain intellectual property rights to the solution they come up with.

It isn’t likely to be easy, as companies that make robocalls are fairly insidious. Many such companies use call centers located overseas, so it isn’t like their offices can be raided. According to CNN, many of them also use “number spoofing,” where a local number is displayed as the caller ID.

What the FTC has in mind is a technical solution, because number spoofing is nearly impossible to spot, so sending in “just shoot em” isn’t going to cut it. Companies with 10 or more employees that think they can come up with a solution can also participate, but can’t receive the cash prize.

Some robocalls are legal

However, there is something to bear in mind about robocalls, if a person receives one. Some are legal; the law exempts certain entities from the robocalling legislation. Political campaigns and voter registration drives, for instance, are legally allowed to make robocalls, as are charitable organizations and airlines, in case they need to alert someone to a delayed or canceled flight.

However, according to Daily Finance, a number of companies illegally making the calls have masked the telemarketing pitch by something of that nature first.

Sources

Daily Finance

CNN

ABC

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