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FTC To Revisit Robocall Menace

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the isn't-enough-garrotte-wire-in-the-world dept.

Government 167

coondoggie writes "While there are legal measures in place to stop most robocalls, the use of the annoying automated calling process seems to be on the rise. The Federal Trade Commission, which defined the rules that outlawed most robocalls in 2009 has taken notice and this October 18th will convene a robocall summit to examine the issues surrounding what even it called the growing robocall problem." A true robocall summit would be a great way to field candidates for the Loebner Prize! But since these will be humans (regulators, etc), I hope, but doubt, they can somehow do something to stop the constant fraudulent robocalls I get from credit-card scammers. In the meantime, it's good to keep a whistle handy.

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They have no intention of really doing anything (5, Insightful)

rudy_wayne (414635) | more than 2 years ago | (#40603835)

The vast majority of "robocalls" I receive are political. These calls are specifically exempted from the rules.

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (3, Informative)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#40603909)

its not even political. its a scam. 'we would like to take your poll on some issues. oh, and stay online so we can tell you about our CRUISE PACKAGE!'

its all a scam.

one thing I'm working on is a hardware device that will use a caller id modem, get the # string and check things like (which is easy to script/call). the spam number is easy to get and I can basically NOT let the call ring thru if its on the spam list. if its not, the relay will click, the 2 wires will pass thru to the actual phone system in my house and I'll hear the ring.

best way to avoid them is to not even give them an answer. they think there's no one ever there. best way to deal with them (since killing them is illegal. I think?)

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40604023)

That sounds like something that my cellphone already does in software.

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (4, Interesting)

meerling (1487879) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604081)

it's better to play the 'out of service' or 'disconnected' tone for them so their robocaller will automatically remove your number from the list. They don't want to waste time calling invalid numbers, and someone not answering is still a potential call, while a dead number isn't.

A friend of mine had his answering machine set up to play the tone, then do a normal message back when we were being inundated in robocalls here. It's amazing how effective it was. I even borrowed a copy of his tape for a week to 'dissuade' the vast majority of them. Worked like a charm. (Yes, we had tape based answering machines, the digital ones were too expensive and limited at that time.)

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604955)

sorry but I disagree.

the best way to address a hidden network area is to never respond to their packets. 'firewall' them. they will go away or waste their time (both good outcomes).

I don't want to pick up their calls and no signal I could send would really be as effective as ignoring them.

the trick is setting up the filter like and pass-list, just like all spam systems. I'm getting enough of either filterable names and number prefixes OR hits on websites that crowdsource the number and give a spam score.

CSing it seems the only way to defend against this. playing back a beep sequence is not going to work enough to justify it but NOT passing them thru will certainly waste their time a little bit (in that it ties up their machine for a bit and again and again, a few more times until they time me out of their system).

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (4, Informative)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#40605261)

Imagine this: if instead of just ignoring the packets, you could somehow make their DNS server say "no such host."

Your analogy doesn't apply. ACD systems don't care about non-answers, they don't remove the number then. If they get an answering machine they can detect, they drop the call but keep you - but if they get a number disconnected or other telco error, they remove you - at least from that campaign. Nothing stops the meatbag in charge from feeding you into the hopper again later.

Disclaimer: I used to work with these systems. I do know how they work, having implemented them. (for a legitimate collections agency, not bullshit "Want a cruise!?" nonsense)

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40604115)

Just use ooma, they have both private and community black-list call blocking with custom actions (disconnected number, voicemail, recorded message).

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (0)

xs650 (741277) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604203)

its not even political. its a scam.

There's a difference?

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (3, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604223)

one thing I'm working on is a hardware device that will use

Not trying to rain on your parade, and hey, if it works for you, go and do it, but once you have an asterisk PBX and voip working, setting up some caller ID routing rules is almost terminally simple as shown below.

So in /etc/asterisk/exten.conf you'll have a stanza for incoming calls


Now inside that start if/then routing kicking junk out. Now please be patient with me, I'm old, tired, and this is from memory, and asterisk config language is like F-ing LISP but ten times worse in how even something "simple" needs endless nested parens, brackets, and curlies.

exten => _XX.,2,GotoIf($[${CALLERID(num)}" = "Unknown"]?200)
exten => _XX.,4,GotoIf($["${CALLERID(num):0:3}" = "800"]?200)

Take a wild guess what line number 200 looks like:

exten => _XX.,200,VoiceMail()
exten => _XX.,201,HangUp()

I also have a line 300 termination that simply hangs up on certain blacklisted numbers. and a "ZapaTeller" or whatever its called that squirts SIT (disconnected) tones. And I believe I have a milliwatt termination, and a music on hold termination in there somewhere.

Now as a practical matter this is an excellent way to learn who blocks caller ID and who doesn't. I've made some weird discoveries like one of my kids doctors categorically blocks outgoing caller ID every time he calls (annoying). Also the school. Other than that, no problemo.

Whenever I mention this, I get breathless FUD about how the world might end because a CIA agent can't call me to tell me to hack into NORAD and block the missile launch. Oh wait that was the movie "Wargames" again. Well anyway the point is ignore the FUDders they aren't worth it.

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (3, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604521)

Oh and I forgot another step of my exten.conf script.

Certain numbers get a GOTO to line 100 where I ring every phone in the house plus an analog adapter with a weird phone ringer on it. Mom, Granny, auntie, workplace, friends, coworkers, neighbors, you get the idea, basically if we know them, we get a special ring.

However unknown numbers fall thru to line 50 or so and only ring the regular phones.

You can do multiple lines with voip and selective ringtones and such, but it turns out to be simpler and cheaper to just do some analog weirdness to a special extension.

When I was single and living alone I shut off my ringer and did not accept incoming calls. Message service only... I enjoyed my freedom.

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#40605021)

I have simple old POTS (not even cellular, in this specific case).

its so simple to have all your phones or ans machines downstream of a simple DPST relay and use a caller id modem (which your system does have, of course) and some simple embedded linux or even arduino stuff. it does need a net connection and it needs live lookups before it passes the relay click.

I have been running a script to lookup numbers as they come into my callerid (using the nice tool suite 'network caller id' or ncid) and then do a quick web query to find if they are good guys or bad guys. so far, it working well. (so far...)

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (1)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604451)

I have been cell-phone only for about 10 years, except a brief period after I moved into a new apartment (the apartment required a land line for the security system).

I received a massive, massive amount of telemarketing calls in the first month. About 75% of them were from the local newspaper trying to get me to subscribe. The other 25% or so were politics. So outside of one problem company, political calls are the problem.

I've not had a cold call, a true sales call in years - other than of course the 5,000 or so in a month from the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, a publication to which I wish bankruptcy and a good long rot in hades.

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (2)

Deep Esophagus (686515) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604645)

Even the genuine political calls are scams disguised as polls [] . "Hi, this is a totally unbiased voter survey conducted by an independent research company. If you found out that Candidate A rapes puppies and Candidate B spends 25 hours a day working unpaid for charities, would that affect your voting preferences?"

And of course even the retailers get around the call restrictions by using these bogus surveys to push their products. "By answering this market survey, you can make sure retailers know what you like so they can improve their services. Now, previous surveys showed that 11 out of 10 housewives prefer new Oomph! detergent over the major competitors that may or may not have baby seal meat and maggots in them. Would you say you agree strongly, agree very strongly, or agree more than words can describe?"

Oh, and my personal favorite: fraudulent law enforcement charities that imply without actually saying so that your contribution will make cops like you better and give you a break when they see that decal on your windshield. I emailed the sheriff in my county that these clowns claimed to represent and he assured me he had never heard of them; shortly thereafter a notice went up on the department's website making it clear they did not support or approve of the solicitation from the whatever-it-was Deputy Association.

If I taught my two twentysomethings nothing else useful when we were homeschooling, it was never to believe anything that anybody ever said to them. Unfortunately I didn't think to save that lesson for last, so I was unable to teach them anything else afterwards.

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (1)

jkiller (1030766) | more than 2 years ago | (#40603987)

I used to work for a non-profit health & wellness/community organization that can be abbreviated by four very well known sequence of letters. They implemented robocalls for EVERYTHING including, camp updates, account balance due, etc from the headquarters until one VP got wind of it and realized they could use it for even MORE (marketing, incentives, etc). I heard many stories from the branch levels of how intrusive and frequent these calls were becoming. As the person in charge of the technology, let me tell you it was almost impossible to tell the VPs that no... this was not a good strategy. Good way to lose members IMHO.

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (4, Informative)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604401)

I work for a large non-profit health system in the midwest. We implemented "robocalls" to serve as appointment reminders. Our patients seem to like and appreciate them. They are not opt-in, but a person can opt-out. These calls save time and money, because they reduce no-show rates and they also reduce incidences of people showing up unprepared for the service they need. ("You weren't supposed to eat this morning, unfortunately we can't do the procedure now.")

So, not all robocalls are bad. There just needs to be a law that you can only use automated calls with people who have initiated a business relationship with you.

Politicians always exempt their own calls, of course. And the "previous business relationship" thing is being interpreted very broadly right now. If you donated to the DNC or a candidate in 2008, they interpret that as you wanting junk mail and phone calls for every candidate they have this time around and continue robo-calling.

We need to get politicians to play by the same rules as everyone else. (fat chance)

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40605657)

Ditto, but in the North West.

We get listed on do not call lists because some departments mask their caller ID to protect the patient.

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40604127)


Doesn't matter (3, Insightful)

oGMo (379) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604167)

Just ignore any number your phone doesn't recognize. Better, have software ignore it for you. If it's important, they can leave a message (and potentially be whitelisted).

If your complaint is "but I have a landline," the solution is even simpler: disconnect it from a phone. :-P

Re:Doesn't matter (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#40605299)

Android has some nice software for ignoring calls from numbers not in your contact lists.

If you have a landline, you can buy a sip gateway for about $50 and route calls into an Asterisk box. That actually gives you a lot of flexibility with what you do with the call. You can route it to a phone, dump it into a voice menu system, dump it into a voice menu system from hell, play a game of hunt the wumpas with the caller or pretty much anything else you can imagine. I was playing with it for least cost routing too, dialing 800 numbers and local numbers on the landline (Which was clearer) and everything else through a voip service. You don't really need the landline portion of this, though it's probably a good idea to have an old phone plugged into the old land line jack in case you ever need to dial 911 and, say, the power's out.

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (1)

sribe (304414) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604269)

The vast majority of "robocalls" I receive are political. These calls are specifically exempted from the rules.

FYI, that used to be true for me. But over the past year I get *far* more credit scams than political calls. Sometimes the same scam goes on day after day, and I have even gotten 5 calls in one day from the same number with the same scam!

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604457)

The vast majority of "robocalls" I receive are political.
I get my share of political, but the vast majority, sometimes twice a day, are robocalls from debt collectors trying to reach people who do not and have never lived at my house. The most annoying thing is that their message says "by continuing to listen to this message, you acknowledge that you are XXXX...", That REALLY pisses me off. I feel like changing my answering machine message to say "by leaving a robocall message on this recorder you agree to pay me $1,000 in exchange for which I will maintain your message in its original format for a period of not shorter than 5 minutes."
The next most frequent is credit cards companies pretending like they are my credit card company and offering to lower my rate.

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (1)

shimane (1186399) | more than 2 years ago | (#40605137)

Join with us ! Shaun Dakin The National Political Do Not Contact Registry

Re:They have no intention of really doing anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40605719)

The FTC doesn't even take action against the ones that aren't political. I received several scam robocalls to my 'do not call list' cell phone number a while back - that's 3 explicitly spelled out violations on the FTC site (Robocall to cell phones were prohibited, robocall credit scams, and to a "do not call" list number). I reported it. They just send back a letter that the calls don't violate anything, but if I want to appeal their decision, I have to go through some process... I don't remember exactly what, I just said "fuck you, too" and threw out their letter.

Now I just ignore the calls from numbers I don't recognize. If it's important, they'll leave a message.

About time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40603855)

I keep getting robocalls during meetings, my own fault for not turning off my phone i suppose.

Simple solution (1)

sortadan (786274) | more than 2 years ago | (#40603881)

Have a report spam option, as well as report fishing or illegal solicitation. It's not hard, just need to actually do something reasonable (I know, I know, it's a bureaucratic). Just send a text message to some service with the offending caller's number from the number you got spammed at, or have a web service and smart phones can have a report unwanted call option with a drop down on if it was just annoying, or if it was illicit in some way. Get more than X reports of spam and you get a warning, get more than Y reports of spam get fined and you can appeal. Get more than Z and you get barred from making more calls until you appeal.

problem solved... too bad it won't happen for another 20 years.

Re:Simple solution (3, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604125)

You mean like the Do Not Call complaint system [] , set up by the FTC to report robocalls as well as calls to numbers in the Do Not Call registry? (I agree a text would be more efficient, but reporting exists, and isn't remotely difficult)

The big problem is actually tracking down the bad guys. Phone robocall spammers aren't doing anything fundamentally different from what email spammers do.

Re:Simple solution (2)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604427)

What I would like to see is for the Do Not Call complaints to be publicly tracked. I've submitted many complaints -- mostly against credit card scammers -- and considering that the same idiots are still calling after dozens of complaints, it's a pretty safe bet that nobody's actually looking at them. Since there's no visibility into the process, though, I don't really have any evidence that the FTC is ignoring the problems.

Re:Simple solution (4, Interesting)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604555)

The Do Not Call list should charge huge fines and reimburse the reporting party something like $50 per incident.

Re:Simple solution (1)

uigrad_2000 (398500) | more than 2 years ago | (#40605549)

I get a lot of the "Credit Card Services" calls, and usually report them to the FTC (using

Last week, I (for the first time ever) got a call from a number that I had previously reported (at least 3 months ago). I lost all faith in the FTC's website at that time.

The ball is in the court of the FTC. They have a reporting website, and people are using it. However, they have NEVER publicized how they handle the complaints, and it is beginning to be obvious that they pretty much do nothing with them.

I don't want to get too political here, but it's beginning to look a bit like Obama's Fast and Furious Operation, where assault rifles were given clean passage into Mexico in order to influence policy on gun control in the U.S. With the FTC, they always want more funding, so they need the robocalls to continue. The donotcall website makes it look like they are spending the money wisely, but they are surreptitiously making sure that the problem continues, so that more money is sent their way.

The company behind the "Credit Card Services" is JPM Accelerated services. The FTC filed a complaint against them in Sept. 2009 [] , and it went to court. The BBB reports that the status of the complaint is still pending even though JPM did lose the court case. I'm convinced that it's still the same people operating the robocalls today. They may have paid some fine and dissolved their business, but immediately restarted afterwards.

Re:Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40605699)

Thanks for posting this info, I've been getting calls from these bozos and haven't heard anything back from the FTC when I give them my contact info when reporting a complaint. Its at least nice to know they did get hit once, but yeah it seems like they are back in business.

Re:Simple solution (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604285)

Then you end up with political party A reporting political party B and vice versa. And naughty high school kids reporting each other and/or the truancy reporting office. You need a meta moderation system like /.

Yeah, right ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#40603887)

Business will whine and say that if they can't make robocalls, then it will savagely destroy the economy. And whenever business claims that, the lawmakers just roll over and give them whatever they want.

The reality is, the vast majority of calls I get are robocalls, and the majority of them are usually scams involving highly accented idiots in call centers.

I've taken to telling the people who may or may not be legitimate that I simply can't believe people calling me. Between fake caller ids, and outright scams/phishing ... I mostly treat all calls not by people I personally know to be a scam and tell pretty much all telemarketers to fsck off.

Robocalls are essentially just spam, but with permission. And probably just as sketchy for the most part.

Re:Yeah, right ... (1)

TWX (665546) | more than 2 years ago | (#40603975)

When I get robocalls on landlines that redirect to a human I keep them on the phone as absolutely long as possible without revealing anything. That way they can't call someone else in that time they're stuck dealing with me. Usually expressions like, "tell me more," and, "I didn't catch that, can you repeat that for me?" will suffice in dragging the call out.

When I get true robocalls with no human I will also try to keep them on the line until they hang up, as opposed to my doing it.

Re:Yeah, right ... (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#40605241)

its a home made DDOS. you deny them the time slot to bother other people.

I am trying to do the same. slow them down and not answer the call if it matches a pattern or known bad number or name or online lookup. do not answer them or if you do, waste their time.

so yes, I agree with you.

Bank Of America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40603895)

BOA does this when you change your address with them

Robocalls from a clever business (1)

flibbidyfloo (451053) | more than 2 years ago | (#40603939)

About once a month I get a robocall from some company that cleans carpets. The recording launches into a cheesy sales pitch without giving any information that would really be useful to someone wanting to report them to the FTC.

Then at the end of the message, it says if you're interested in their fabulous offer, you can call their number.

So I called the number, and it was an answering machine! You are told to leave your information for them to get back to to schedule a visit. Again, there is no real identifying info on that machine either that would help you track them down.

I left a message telling them to stop calling me and that I'd report them to the FTC if they didn't. Of course they ignored it and I still get the calls semi-regularly.

Now I have a phone that when it rings, it also announced in a synthesized voice the number or the number of the caller. If it's not someone I recognize, or it says "unknown caller" I just don't answer.

It's a shame it's come to that, but what can you do?

Re:Robocalls from a clever business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40604317)

It's a shame it's come to that, but what can you do?

A challenge and response system that picks up the call and asks someone to do something before it rings the real phone?

I've often wanted a system that says "Hi, you're ringing my UK telephone number which is currently forwarded to my US cell phone while I'm in america. It's now $time on the east coast of america. If this is life an death, please press nine now, otherwise hang up".

You'll note iOS6 has something like this. A DND feature that forwards all calls but whitelisted to voicemail, but allows repeated rings by the same number to ring the real phone

Re:Robocalls from a clever business (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604657)

Telephone companies are all about micropayments these days. Seems like we should be able to set up a system where certain people are allowed to call in to your number for free, and unrecognized numbers have a predetermined amount that they must pay before it will ring through. You should be able to set up multiple pricing plans for different numbers, such as known political callers, charity organizations, etc. If they want to solicit you for money, that's fine, but they must pay for the privilege.

Re:Robocalls from a clever business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40605149)

What I wish Apple would have done with iOS is not a DND feature, but something like the Android app Mr. Number. If a call is not on a contact list, the caller ID is checked. If it is on a known telemarketer/robocaller list, it goes to voice mail, /dev/null, or picked up and hung up on (user's choice.)

What I think we will see are robocallers who will call repeatedly just to get around iOS's DND feature. They are annoying enough because they are immune to anything the FCC does (with VoIP, a call from outside the US is just as easy as within.)

Re:Robocalls from a clever business (2)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604601)

It's a shame it's come to that, but what can you do?
Apparently, you need to schedule an appointment with them. Of course, don't be home when they come by. Once they show up, it should be relatively easy to figure out who they are and report them.

I just hope they catch (1)

joeflies (529536) | more than 2 years ago | (#40603961)

the asshats who keep calling my phone to play the sound of a foghorn blowing

Re:I just hope they catch (1)

kaiser423 (828989) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604181)

That's a cruise ship horn. Yea, I get that one too. If you wait five seconds, the horn will be over and they'll try to sell you a cruise package.

Re:I just hope they catch (1)

Cid Highwind (9258) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604365)

Oh sweet zombie Jeebus, yes. They call me at least once a week from a different number in area code 360, and like a chump I pick up every damn time because I know people there.
20 years to life sharing a cheap cruise ship cabin with a dozen rabid weasels is too good for them!

Re:I just hope they catch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40604711)

We have a block of numbers at my work. It's funny because they are obviously robodialing each possible number in the block. At one point those companies got smacked hard for dialing govt offices.. Although the same people probably sell a "reserved list" so the robodialers don't call police an fire stations anymore.

Call them back, especially politicians (2)

jamesoutlaw (87295) | more than 2 years ago | (#40603979)

When I receive a political robocall, I make note of the politician who's the subject of the call and I then proceed to call their campaign headquarters and speak very rudely and sternly to the staff person who answers the call. I've gotten off several calling lists that way- lists that I NEVER asked to be on. It probably doesn't accomplish much, but I don't think it's a wasted effort to call and annoy people who willingly call and annoy me.

In local elections, I can frequently talk directly to the candidate. It's always fun to listen to them stammer and try to make an apology.

Note to politicians: If I want to hear from you, I will contact you. I don't need nor want you calling me and I don't need or want any of your "supporters" calling me on your behalf. I get enough of your foolishness in the media. I don't need to hear it over my phone.

Re:Call them back, especially politicians (1)

immaterial (1520413) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604489)

This is why I will never donate to any political campaign, ever again. I made the mistake of donating to a couple in 2008, and it's been telephone hell since. 1-2 calls a day in 2010 and 2011, and 3-4 calls a day so far in 2012 -- I fear what will happen as we approach the actual election.

But how will we know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40603999)

We need to know when the warranties on our cars are about to expire (never mind that they were bought during the Clinton administration). Or that our mortgage can be reduced. Someone has to tell us.

The $10/month I pay for call blocking is worth every penny.

Re:But how will we know? (1)

ZipK (1051658) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604561)

When they ask what kind of car you have, tell them it's a 1928 Porter [] , and let them give you a quote on an extended warranty.

Spam calls (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40604003)

I think what we're seeing today is a different form of robocalling. Legislation has (thankfully) made legitimate, above the board robocalling operations unprofitable.

What we see now are scams run by criminal organizations, not unlike spam. They used to try sell you things, now it's just outright fraud. With low cost voip-hardline services it's easy to setup a fly-by-night operation and make a few hundred thousand calls before you're shut down.. If you get shut down. The FCC/FTC seem to be pretty slow acting.

Useless. (1)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604011)

Rules and laws are useless if not enforced.
I get (and block) at least 2 robocalls a week, and after googling each number after the call, I'm nowhere near the only one.
What we need isn't new rules, but to simply enforce what is already there.

No Robo Calls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40604019)

The clearest method would to make it a serious crime to in any way use a robotic caller or dialler for sales, appointment setting, advertising, politics or charity.
              The only legitimate use of such a device is when an alarm or similar device dials for an ambulance or cops or whatever. And above all we should ban bill collectors from any automated dialling or messaging systems.
              Since doing the right thing usually can't happen in our nation the next best thing would be to apply a strong penalty for any individual or firm who blocks call tracing or in any way obscures the phone number or the location from which the phone is used. That should be followed by making it a felony with real prison time for a person to fail to give their accurate first and last name when they call. Harsh laws make for really good neighbors.

ALL robocalls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40604051)

should be outlawed. And the no call list should be expanded to include political calls and "cheritable organization" panhandling calls! And all of the above plus all advertising calls AND texts should be banned from cell phones!!

I pay for my phones and phone service, I SHOULD SAY WHO CAN CALL (OR TEXT)ME!!

Re:ALL robocalls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40605615)

The issue is that we don't know what to outlaw. We've already outlawed all this stuff.

The problem is finding a way to enforce it. Current enforcement methods have no teeth. As long as people can anonymously sign up for phone numbers, there is no way to prosecute those who misuse them.

Enter: The Robo Answering Machine (4, Funny)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604053)

We need an answering machine that can use voice recognition to detect real callers, and forward them to your cordless/cell phone, and keep the sales calls in voice jail hell.
  1. RAM: Hello
  2. Salesguy: Hello, I'm calling from ****
  3. RAM: I'm listening
  4. Salesguy: Our pills are the best pills there are
  5. RAM: Tell me more
  6. Salesguy: They cure gout, baldness, and cancer.
  7. RAM: Go on


The Robo Answering Machine scripts wouldn't even need to be that interactive. As long as the device could detect when the salesguy was speaking, and respond with a random interogative or prompt. There could even be contests to generate the best scripts.

Re:Enter: The Robo Answering Machine (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604205)

Finally a practical application for Turing test contestants!

Re:Enter: The Robo Answering Machine (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 2 years ago | (#40605777)

Even easier, have a little machine pick up the call and reply with a press random # to be connected.

Only when the correct # is pressed your phone commences to ring.

For once, an issue USA comes out ahead of Canada (0)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604073) []

But don't worry Canada, we have a brutal presidential election coming up. We'll try our best to out surpass you here on the Robocall douchebaggery scale. Your victory is only temporary Canada!

Re:For once, an issue USA comes out ahead of Canad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40605245)

Speaking as a Canadian your punishment is to be forced into a two party system with no escape.


No! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40604077)

They can't stop robocalls! How else am I going to find out I won a trip to the Bahamas every single week?

Whistle damaged hearing? (3, Funny)

djl4570 (801529) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604111)

I find it hard to believe that POTS supports the dynamic range needed to damage someone's hearing.

Re:Whistle damaged hearing? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604435)

Dynamic range has nothing to do with it - just maximum volume at the receiver's end, and that's down to the equipment being used.

Do not call list (1)

Fatch Racall (2330110) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604151) []
It helps. It's not perfect, believe me, and for the 30 days between when you register and you're officially on the list, it's hell, but... I'm down to 2-3 robocalls a month from 20-30(and for the 30 days, it was about 5-10 a day. I just didn't answer my phone for a month).

Re:Do not call list (2)

Bigbutt (65939) | more than 2 years ago | (#40605573)

I'm on the list and still get a crapload of idiot calls.


Credit Card (4, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604155)

The ones I get are usually credit card scams.

I've heard it said that these calls are coming from offshore making it hard for the FTC to trace.

Too bad we can't set the RIAA and MPAA loose on them.

Re:Credit Card (1)

Peter Simpson (112887) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604847)

There has definitely been an increase. A few years ago, I started getting them on my cell phone.

It's pretty clear they are using outsourced autodialing, there's a distinct "prompt" phase: "Hello, press one to learn about valuable credit card information, press two to be added to our do not call list". On pressing 1, you get the actual boiler room. The CID is from all over the country, never the same number twice. Of course, all my phones are on the federal DNC list...makes no difference to these scum.

And the stuff they're pushing is scammer-ific. Credit card interest rates, nonexistent cruises, all kinds of scams to get your credit card number. I played along on one for a while to see what they were after. Scams, all of them. So definitely not legitimate US-based call centers...they'd be shut down in a flash for disregarding the DNC list. Offshore autodialler makes lots of sense, then transfer to a US-based boiler room. VOIP I would guess, leaving no connection between the calling number (spoofed anyway, one would assume) and the scammer.

Cruise/vacations (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604983)

I usually get the "this is your captain speaking" cruise scam. Usually at least once a month or more on my work phone

AI Robo Callers (1)

Bigbutt (65939) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604165)

We've been getting Home Security calls from Oregon and Washington area codes but the caller is an Eliza type robot. It asks a recorded question and the next question is based on your answer. It's done pretty well at working the call including when you interrupt the question and then hangs up. You can just tell it's a robot question and answer package vs a real human. It's just a little too perky and the inflection is just a little off.

Most of the time though we get callers that don't leave a message. Generally I just ignore the call and then do a google lookup on the number and add it to my spammer contact (it tells me I've already looked it up so don't have to look it up again).

A funny one was when we were traveling. We'd called the banks and credit card companies to let them know we were out of town but got a call from a number not in my contact list. They didn't leave a message but called right back. I picked up the second time and they asked for me or my wife, but used my real first name (I go by my middle name) so I hung up. Then they called my wife's number. Since she was driving, I snagged it, cursed them out and hung up again. Turns out it was one of the banks. :) We received an e-mail asking us to contact the bank to confirm we were out traveling. We did tell them that they should identify themselves when calling though :)


Don't Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40604183)

Let anybody you don't know fall to voicemail.
This is currently the best way to minimize time wasted and attention diverted.

The only thing that could improve this is allowing the reciever to set the charge levied on the originator of the call.
Such as:
$0.00 for people I've whitelisted.
$20.00 for people that I have not whitelisted.
I'll give the $20 back to friends, but not telemarketers or robocalls.

Re:Don't Answer (1)

NalosLayor (958307) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604519)

Because no criminal has ever stolen a credit card number. No sir.

Simple answer: Cut the cord. (1)

zarmanto (884704) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604253)

Why bother waiting for the FTC to come up with an answer, when there's a simple solution readily available (to most people, anyway) right now? If you have the option (and the budget) just kill off your land line altogether, in favor of wireless. Cell phones have been protected from all but opt-in robocalls since 1991. The most important benefit of a land line (always on, remotely powered) essentially disappeared for me when I bought a house that was already wired for FiOS... so upon reflection, my wife and I decided to kill our "VoIP landline" several years back, and we've felt practically no angst at all over that decision. Today, pretty much the only robocalls we receive are from our daughter's school, informing us of closings and wot-not.

Re:Simple answer: Cut the cord. (2)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604395)

Except of course, that the spammers and fishers don't care at all about that.

My wife's cell regularly gets called with such things, and since the caller id is bogus and it's a robot on the other end, there's not much you can do to report it as they've gone to some lengths to hide who they actually are.

I think the phone companies should be required to block all calls which don't originate from the broadcast caller id. I generally don't answer anything that says "Private Caller".

As I've said elsewhere in this thread, I've simply taken to not believing anybody who phones me ... which means the very tiny amount that are legitimate have an awfully difficult time not getting told to fuck off. The fact of the matter is, about 90% or more of all the calls I get are outright fraudulent.

Re:Simple answer: Cut the cord. (2)

johnb10001 (604626) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604603)

I am getting occasional spam text messages and phone calls on my cell phone. This will probably increase for everybody in the future.

Re:Simple answer: Cut the cord. (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604773)

Cell phones have been protected from all but opt-in robocalls since 1991.
I don't think the scammers care whether it has been illegal since 1991 or only illegal since 2003 or whenever the DNC was put into place. They still call my landline AND my cell phone.

Re:Simple answer: Cut the cord. (1)

zarmanto (884704) | more than 2 years ago | (#40605275)

Okay... based upon the replies I'm seeing, clearly I left out an important detail: If there's no caller ID information, why on earth would you bother answering at all?? Or even if it's just a number you don't recognize... just let it go to voicemail, and that'll filter out pretty much all scammers/spammers/fishers. If for some reason they can't leave you a message with callback information, then whatever they wanted to say obviously isn't important enough to worry about.

And for the record, I have received calls from phone numbers I didn't recognize on rare occasions, and I have indeed treated them in this fashion -- but I cannot recall having ever received a call from someone who was actually blocking caller ID. If you're receiving those kinds of calls on a "regular" basis, then I would suggest that you may have another problem altogether -- one which might well warrant changing your phone number.

Re:Simple answer: Cut the cord. (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#40605409)

Sadly, even when someone calls me from the office it shows as "Private Caller".

You'd be surprised at just how common it is for the caller id to be blocked or altered, which makes it even more frustrating.

But, generally I just leave the answering machine to do the initial screening ... most of the calls I get nowadays is stuff that is either an outright scam, or not someone whose call I'm interested in anyway.

The phone has basically become another vector for spam, and largely gets ignored. Which means occasionally I do miss a call I would have answered.

Hit the phone companies. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40604263)

You know what? The record and movie industry wants ISPs to cut off subscribers after receiving a small number of unsubstantiated complaints. Do the same - require the telcos to cut off callers if they recieve a small threshold number of complaints from their subscribers.

I mean, if it's acceptable for them to do to us, we should be able to play that game.

(Yes, I understand it's different industries, and all your other objections. However, the telcos/ISPs have already agreed that this is an acceptable practice.)


Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40604265)

Part Call. Part Machine. All Annoying.

Re:ROBOCALL!!! (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604517)

[Stern, 1980s announcer voice]

In the city of old Detroit, the Overpriced Consumer Products corporation had fallen on hard times. Unable to retain a lucrative telephone marketing plan in the face of rising minimum wage and more stringent employment laws, they created: ROBOCALL.

Robocall, the ultimate telphone marketing system: part man, part machine, RoboCall could dial thousands of potential customers in minutes. All over the country, robocall interrupted dinner, meetings, classrooms, selling timeshares and discount viagra supplies. The board of OCP celebrated their victory over looming insolvency by giving themselves healthy raises, and firing the team responsible for RoboCall's creation. But the residents of Old Detroit wouldn't go down easy....

Whitelisting (1)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604315)

Why can't somebody invent voicemail service that filters everything by default, except whitelisted numbers? I'd pay for that.

I get on average, 4-6 robocalls every weekday, and being able to do this would be a tremendous timesaver, not to mention, spare me a lot of aggravation.

Re:Whitelisting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40605233)

My voip provide have scripts that let you do this by pattern matching CID to different actions. It is feasible to do so.
Now if only there is a realtime blacklist that can be automatically added to the scipt...

Re:Whitelisting (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#40605429)

There are several packages on android that do exactly that. If you're having this trouble on a landline, you could set up an asterisk box and a SIP gateway and route calls into asterisk. From there you can check caller ID -- I bet you could hook it up to your google contact list, or just keep a database of contact numbers and route everything else into voicemail. Either way, you get an amazing amount of control over who gets to bother you and who doesn't.

The foxes will not fix the henhouse. (0)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604347)

The most egregeous violations of Robocall laws are naturally inflicted by politicians themselves. One of my US Reps has robocalled me for a few years now, even though the only news I want to hear from this right-wing apparatchik is that he is dying in a fire.

this is a bit silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40604385)

this is a bit silly

"Easy" fix for this (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604413)

1 Bar political calls unless A you have registered as %party% or independent B have voted in the last 2 elections (so you don't get calls if you are registered as %other party%
2 If X number of complaints are registered (add 20% to the total for any number on the DNC list) then JAIL the execs of the company (and the BOD) for a period of not less than 2 years.
3 Also Jail the persons running the Call Center for a period of not less than 3 years (and bar them from running any other businesses)
4 in cases where the Call Center is not in the US then follow the chain and the company that is the last jump in the US goes on the hook.
5 The Only defense allowed is A we do not use "cold calls" (and here is the written company policy) B our contract with %call company% specifies the required legal limits are to be followed
6 Any company using fraud or other tricks to bypass the regs now has a TRIPLE sentence

Re:"Easy" fix for this (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 2 years ago | (#40605555)

5 is useless.

Officially: "Our contracts with $OFFSHORE_CALL_CENTER specifiy compliance with DNC"

Unofficially, with no paper trail: "Hey, $OFFSHORE_CALL_CENTER, do whatever you have to do to make lots of sales. Screw the DNC, you're offshore and untouchable."

I use this to block the automated calls (2)

johnb10001 (604626) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604415)

Most of the time when I give out a phone number to a business it goes to a land line with a call screen-er attached. My friends get the cell phone number. [] This device asks people the type in a number like an office extension. I wipes out nearly all automated calls, wrong numbers that don't speak English and midnight drunks. You might be able to program some smartphones to do this.

The FTC is powerless in this matter... (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604429)

VoIP allows the robocallers to move around and hide themselves very easily. Trying to stop the robocallers is worse than whack-a-mole. The robocalls have gotten so bad that I now let the answering machine screen all my incoming calls. Oh, and naturally, if the FTC does decide to put into place new rules, be aware that political robocalls will be exempt.

outlaw all unsolicited calls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40604491)

I just want all unsolicited calls from businesses and politicians outlawed.

I get that stupid call from scammers claiming to be from Windows Tech Support all the time and I want them out of business and buried under a volcano or something.

It doesn't matter how many times I lead them on for half an hour before ruining their day, or just flat telling them I know they're criminals and they should take my number off their calling list because OBVIOUSLY I won't EVER fall for their scam. They just keep calling back like they WANT me to waste their time. It's ridiculous.

Barring that, I'd love to just move entirely to a new phone system that let's me simply setup a white-list and anyone not on that list just can't get through.

Free home security package (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40604509)

Fuck you, "Security Solutions".

Why don’t he have telephone firewalls anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40604535)

We have firewalls and whitelists for all kinds of stuff. We should have them for phones too.

I have such a thing. I have a phonebook, users tagged with keywords to to form groups, plus the special groups “anonymous callers” and “unknown callers”. I just put the special groups in my blacklist to make the phonebook a whitelist. Problem solved.

Hint: Instead of hanging up, it’s better to send the “this number doesn’t exist” signal, or at least pick up and play the “*beep* *beep* *beep* this number doesn’t exist” message. The exact same, that your phone company uses. :)

A whistle? (1)

ItsJustAPseudonym (1259172) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604575)

Nah, that's harsh and much less effective than this horror [] ..

revenge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40604897)

Once in a while you can track the fuckers down. They're fair game. Smash their windows, throw smokebombs, you name it. If they come after you, just shoot them. Vigilante? Fucking right.

Shameless Link to Old Post (1)

carrier lost (222597) | more than 2 years ago | (#40604999)

This [] is all I have to say about that!

Political Robocall Registry Robo Cop Needed (1)

shimane (1186399) | more than 2 years ago | (#40605127)

Hi, I'm the only political robocall cop in the country ! Article about me here this week > [] Best, Shaun Dakin Founder The National Political Do Not Contact Registry A National Non Profit fighting for voter privacy rights

The Root of the Problem (1)

Media_Scumbag (217725) | more than 2 years ago | (#40605323)

The crux is this:

1. The Do Not Call List:
A. Is opt-out only for legally-operating businesses.
B. Is a sales leads vector for illegal businesses, or businesses that can make a claim to a pre-existing customer relationship.

2. ANI/Caller ID, prepaid cell phones, VOIP:
A. As others have noted, VOIP makes it trivial to spoof ANI/Caller ID data, requiring a detailed (and often costly) "harassing call" investigation on the part of the consumer's carrier to decipher the actual source, if possible.
B. Prepaid cell phones are ubiquitous now, and allow one to easily use a line (or merely an ANI number) for nefarious purposes and ditch it before it reaches a threshold of suspicion.

3. Consumers lack the sophistication to delineate legal "annoying calls" from illegal "harassing calls."
A. Title 47 has no longer has the teeth to grasp offenders unless they are extremely high-profile in their offenses. 10 years ago, it was a misdemeanor to call a wireless device with an automated service or to "spam-fax." A caller was to identify themselves and their employer and to provide a means by which to opt-out of future calls.
B. Thus, Federal and local regulatory and law enforcement agencies don't have the sophistication, funding, or inclination to tackle the problem.
C. And, carriers don't want to be in the business of preventing calls of any kind.

From my recent personal experience, a large number of the fraud businesses (credit-rebuilding scams) are leveraging a combination of all of these phenomena in order to operate with impunity: they use a robodailer, pitch only when a person answers (not voicemail), and use a "burn-phone"/prepaid cell number as their ANI source or callback opt-out number. I get about 2-3 of these calls per month on my mobile, a number that isn't publicly shared in any other directory than the Do Not Call List. I have a constantly-growing list of 20 numbers that my carrier now blocks, but I believe that the scammers are only likely to be using a given number for only days at a time.

Just don't respond (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40605531)

Just don't respond to ANY robocall, and one step further: don't respond to ANY call from a business.

As a matter of policy (doesn't it feel good as an individual to take that word and throw it back in the face of organizations?) I don't respond to calls from businesses, except under very narrowly defined circumstances.

Even if there is an existing relationship, don't respond to any call, robo or otherwise. This is a very simple rule that you can follow that works when you are busy, distracted, and otherwise not able to "think on your feet".

The beauty of this is that you cannot be phished. Never respond to a call from any business, and phishing DIES.

Now I said there are some narrow exceptions. What are they? The mechanic calling to tell me my car is ready. There's an existing businesss relationship, AND a business transaction. There's virtually no security threat. Ditto for an appointment confirmation that you previously established.

You are the client. The company is the server. There is no legitimate reason for the server to contact the client unless there has been a handshake. When the transaction is complete, you revert to a state where only the client can SYN.

Any company that really had a sense of security would NEVER call their clients for any reason, or send an e-mail with a link, or any of that stupidity. Alas, it's not the way things are working now. You, the client, must enforce security policy.

plus 3;, Trolxl) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40605763)

Not anymore. It's the BSD license, also dead, iuts of BSD/OS. A That *BSD 0wned.
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