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FTC Offers $50,000 For Best Way To Stop Robocalls

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the dial-A-for-annoying dept.

Government 614

coondoggie writes "It's not clear if the Federal Trade Commission is throwing up its hands at the problem or just wants some new ideas about how to combat it, but the agency is now offering $50,000 to anyone who can create what it calls an innovative way to block illegal commercial robocalls on landlines and mobile phones."

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614 comments

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Death Penalty (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703701)

Problem solved.

Re:Death Penalty (5, Insightful)

Kergan (780543) | about 2 years ago | (#41703729)

No need to be that extreme... A hefty fine for companies that do it and another to the carriers that put the calls through should be enough.

Re:Death Penalty (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703749)

Hmm. How about a fine of the recreational reproductive organs? :-)

A truly heafty fine (5, Insightful)

Kolisar (665024) | about 2 years ago | (#41703861)

I agree with the Hefty fine, but I think that the fine should be a calculated as a percentage of the company's worth, with a minimum of $200,000 if the company is not worth anything. Then a fairly large percentage (25%), that way, a large company that has 100's of millions of dollars will not just laugh off a $50,000 fine. The fine has to truly hurt the company for it to be a deturrent.

You cannot fine that which does not have a number (4, Insightful)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | about 2 years ago | (#41703991)

The problem is that most of the real difficult companies are hiding their numbers and identities. Any solution to that is going to reduce the usefulness of the phone system because it will allow unscrupulous bigger operators to block calls from certain origins (e.g. international calls routed through competing operators). Probably the only solution is some kind of IVR [wikipedia.org] administering an audio CAPTCHA [wikipedia.org] before allowing a phone to ring.

Re:Death Penalty (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703981)

No need to be that extreme... A hefty fine for companies that do it and another to the carriers that put the calls through should be enough.

Pull your head out of your ass. Companies haven't effectively reacted to "hefty fines" in decades. Wall Street alone should have shown you that.

You know what they call a $100 million fine on activity that has generated a billion in revenue?

Worth it.

Re:Death Penalty (1)

schroedingers_hat (2449186) | about 2 years ago | (#41704037)

That's why you have a multiplier based on the number of total infractions of any and all companies that are subsidiaries of the same companies, have had the same companies as subsidiaries,or share majority shareholders/board members. It could go something like this: 1e6*2^n dollars where n is the number of infractions.

Re:Death Penalty (5, Funny)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 2 years ago | (#41703797)

Nuke them from orbit (it's the only way to be sure).

Re:Death Penalty (0)

Elminster Aumar (2668365) | about 2 years ago | (#41704003)

They mostly come out at night... Mostly.

Re:Death Penalty (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703967)

Came here to say this. Death is a bit much but it'll all stop in a few weeks if you start throwing people in prison for doing it (and doing it publicly on TV).

Hiding behind a company name shouldn't be an excuse for getting away with anything. Whoever signed the company incorporation papers goes to jail for the offenses the company commits. They know it's illegal, they do it anyway.

Re:Death Penalty (5, Insightful)

dywolf (2673597) | about 2 years ago | (#41704045)

Dear FTC,

Grow a pair, ban robo-calls, and follow through on enforcement.
You can send me my check at your convenience.

Signed,
Me

A modest proposal (0, Redundant)

Cymsdale (772966) | about 2 years ago | (#41703705)

Death penalty. Probably a bit overkill, but likely effective.

Re:A modest proposal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703733)

I think simple prosecution would suffice.

Re:A modest proposal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703767)

Effective deterrent? That'll be why there are no more murders in US states with death penalty then. Wake up, deterrents don't work, people don't believe they will be caught.

Back on topic, I find not answering the phone works personally...

Re:A modest proposal (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703951)

It isn't effective because it isn't done in public. Back in the good old days you'd strap a crook to a rack and pull out his innards in the middle of a town square. Then you'd use a couple of horses and pull of his limbs, which you would display all around town. That scared the shit out of people. Nowadays all that you do is give a lad a couple of injections in front of maybe a dozen people. People can get "deterred" by reading the news of the event if they want. Waste of time if you ask me. If you want to deter crime, then the criminals-to-be need to hear the screaming.

Re:A modest proposal (5, Interesting)

causality (777677) | about 2 years ago | (#41704093)

Effective deterrent? That'll be why there are no more murders in US states with death penalty then. Wake up, deterrents don't work, people don't believe they will be caught.

Someone who would murder another human being (not talking about legitimate self-defense here) is either a cold-blooded killer or psychotic. There is something wrong with them that prevents them from considering things like the probability of getting caught, how wrong such an act would be, or that with modern forensics most murderers do in fact get caught. These are not people who think rationally and perform risk assessments prior to acting.

Compare to the sociopaths who tend to run corporations. They are all about their own self-interests. They do consider risk, in fact it's about the only thing that can alter their decision-making. A real law with teeth that poses a real threat to their income actually would make them think twice. Combine that with how unlikely it is that they would make a perfectly untracable phone call, plus the even lower likelihood of making a perfectly untracable financial transaction for whatever business they are doing, plus the number of complaints that would result from an automated system making tons of calls, and the likelihood of getting caught is very high.

Back on topic, I find not answering the phone works personally...

It's the same problem you find with spam. You and I may not talk to them and buy from them, but some moron out there will. Their costs are so low that they only need a very small rate of response to make money. Passing a law with teeth that targets a few centralized assholes is much easier than convincing every moron to put a little thought into how their actions affect others.

Solution (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703707)

Large fines to the telephone company that passed on the robocall. That will be more than enough incentive for them to figure a solution that avoids the fines by stopping the robocalls.

Re:Solution (0)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#41703789)

So if someone is tapping into your wifi to download kiddie porn, the authorities should just keep fining you for not breaking the law until you figure out a solution rather than going after the people doing the actual illegal activities?

Re:Solution (3, Insightful)

jkflying (2190798) | about 2 years ago | (#41703823)

Are they paying you to tap into your wifi? Did you give them express permission to do so? No? Well, then, you made a bad analogy.

Re:Solution (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41704109)

Yes, he did, but I think his point why should we fine the phone company for routing a call if they have no idea it's from a robot?

Re:Solution (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703957)

That's the most practical way.

As a customer I'd like the same set of solutions available to me with e-mail. But the phone company in this day and age still pretends like it can't possibly know the origin of every phone call, assign it a number and name, and put it on the Caller ID. I can see 100% of the IP addresses my computer deals with on the Internet yet the Caller ID is somewhere under 30% on properly identifying callers -- not just telemarketers and spammers but also friends and family on cellphones. Presumably the phone company knows who everybody is when it's time to bill, yeah?

Make Caller ID work for every call and a free part of everybody's telephone service. Don't allow anybody but the phone companies to set this information and create/enforce meaningful penalties if the call origin information is falsified. Require phone companies to create a (free) means for customers to hit a few keys on the telephone to report a call as "spam". Allow the FTC to use the reported phone numbers with the greatest number of reports as their guide when enforcing the Do Not Call list. Require the phone company to allow customers to create a whitelist of phone numbers they want through, a blacklist of phone numbers they don't, and some degree of flexibility in this system that lets customers say "don't allow incoming VoIP calls from out of the country that aren't on the whitelist".

This would actually clean up the pool fast.

Re:Solution (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41703995)

Large fines to the telephone company that passed on the robocall.

What is this, the 1940s? The robots don't call up the girls at the exchange and asked to be put through.

How about them fines (4, Insightful)

guruevi (827432) | about 2 years ago | (#41703709)

It seems the best way to make corporations comply is to have rules that have teeth. Regardless of what you're going to implement, if you're not planning on executing it, it doesn't matter.

There are rules, enforce them. If it's not enough, make the whole foodchain (corporations that advertise and service providers that do the dirty work ) that supplies such robocalls pay for it - 10% of their yearly income to begin with and $1,000 per call.

Re:How about them fines (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703931)

Corporations? They're a pain, yes. But I want to see politicians thrown out of the exemptions. I've gotten more calls from politicians this past week than I have from corporations in the past three years. It's another area where the government rigged it up so that they can do their will while blocking others from doing the same. I don't know why people don't tire of that game.

Re:How about them fines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41704133)

The political ones are easy to avoid. First, I don't actually answer my home phone. But, if you do have some calls you want to answer you simply need to set your answering machine to pick up after 6 rings. The political calls all hang up after three or on four rings as they don't want to pay for a completed call or waste time on your answering machine. Pick up at 5 rings. Most all of the junk calls have already hung up.

Re:How about them fines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703979)

Meh, everyone gets gvoice type numbers with challenges to ring through from unknown numbers. Failures are centrally logged, and you algorithmically determine high failure rates in short periods. Investigate and prosecute.

Re:How about them fines (1)

scuba69 (848730) | about 2 years ago | (#41704029)

Not sure why this comment only rates a 3. If the FTC is looking for a magic bullet they are going to be sadly disappointed. Anything good enough to stop it would most likely have many unintended side effects (like limiting free speech). Follow the money. Fine the offenders (offer a bounty like the IRS does on avoiding taxes maybe).

Re:How about them fines (1)

CodeheadUK (2717911) | about 2 years ago | (#41704039)

Also, pass some of that fine bounty to the customer to increase the chances of the incidents being reported.

Re:How about them fines (1)

skine (1524819) | about 2 years ago | (#41704069)

At least when corporations do it, it's illegal.

The same can't be said for those running for public office.

Re:How about them fines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41704113)

Hm... I was gonna suggest tracing the calls and shooting one person involved for every call. Now I am not sure which suggestion would give the strongest incentive, mine or yours.

Company Death Penalty (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703717)

Sieze all company assets, pierce the corporate veil, go after the owners, fine them to the tune of 10x gross revenue.

Also, they are advertising or selling something. Make the company that makes/sells the product responsible for the actions of their contracted sales force.

See sentence 1.
 

Illegal act = EXCUSE FOR WARRANT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703735)

Kick their doors down and shoot their dog...

Re:Illegal act = EXCUSE FOR WARRANT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703759)

Are you ATF? 'Cause you sound like ATF. Just sayin...

Re:Illegal act = EXCUSE FOR WARRANT (1)

slugstone (307678) | about 2 years ago | (#41703769)

Kick their doors down and shoot their dog...

NO, not the dog

Re:Illegal act = EXCUSE FOR WARRANT (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#41703939)

Kick their doors down and shoot their dog...

Kick their doors down and shoot their dog...

NO, not the dog

Don't worry - I am sure that this is not some sort of pet-shooting monster. He must have been using cockney rhyme slang [wikipedia.org] , and what better way to punish someone who abuses the phone system.

Re:Illegal act = EXCUSE FOR WARRANT (0)

causality (777677) | about 2 years ago | (#41704103)

Kick their doors down and shoot their dog...

No we only do that for adult people who alter their consciousness in unauthorized ways.

Variable rates for friends/enemies (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703743)

Allow the recipient of the call to charge for picking up. Obviously you wouldn't charge your friends anything, but a robocall you could charge up to $5 maybe. The telco would do the collection and accounting.

Re:Variable rates for friends/enemies (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 2 years ago | (#41704017)

Ha, that's pretty good...

Ok, how about this (5, Insightful)

Weaselmancer (533834) | about 2 years ago | (#41703753)

Have some feds buy some land lines and cell phones. Give them a few credit cards. Then when the robocall comes in, answer it and buy whatever they are selling.

Track the transaction, figure out who is responsible, and then arrest them.

If they are in another country, contact that government and have them arrest them. If they won't, sanctions. If that doesn't work threaten to cut their cable.

Re:Ok, how about this (4, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | about 2 years ago | (#41703791)

fantastic. when I want to put my competitors out of buisness all I have to do is pay for some robocalls advertising their products.

Re:Ok, how about this (4, Insightful)

jkflying (2190798) | about 2 years ago | (#41703859)

You also need to buy and ship their products and use the fed's CC to transfer money into *their* account. Yeah, not that simple.

Re:Ok, how about this (2)

Anonymous Cod (2647669) | about 2 years ago | (#41703889)

I think that is why his suggestion wasn't to go by the caller's claimed identity, but instead to track the financial transaction and go after whomever accepted the money.

Re:Ok, how about this (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#41703927)

You know, the phone system is computerized now. They know who called who when. They claim they don't if you call and complain about a harassing call because they don't want to deal with you.

Re:Ok, how about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703929)

I think the missed the ""figure out who is responsible" step.

Also isn't the point that those running the robocall operation are commiting the offence? Not the company being advertised.

Re:Ok, how about this (1)

dargaud (518470) | about 2 years ago | (#41704149)

How would you know you are calling the feds ? I assume those numbers would be standard numbers, not attributed to the gov. That's the whole point.

Re:Ok, how about this (4, Interesting)

Xest (935314) | about 2 years ago | (#41703851)

This is the often cited excuse for not dealing with it in the UK that BT uses.

So in my mind the best solution is to penalise BT financially for each call someone registers as being an illegal automated call. BT can then pass the cost on to whoever routed the call to them such that effectively as the cost gets passed back down the chain the cost of illegal calls eventually gets passed on to the source making it not cost effective.

Re:Ok, how about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41704005)

>If they are in another country, contact that government and have them arrest them. If they won't, sanctions. If that doesn't work threaten to cut their cable.

So you're telling me that I can be arrested in my country just because I broke a US law regarding phone calls in the US? You've got to be shitting me!

Inclusive filter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703755)

A solution where you add numbers which you want to accept calls from, rest don't get through. Now give me my money.

Re:Inclusive filter (3, Funny)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 2 years ago | (#41703795)

We'd like to give you your money but failed to reach you on the phone to obtain your bankaccount details.

Re:Inclusive filter (1)

davidbrit2 (775091) | about 2 years ago | (#41704007)

Or rather, the rest have to enter their phone number on the keypad, then the phone system disconnects and rings them back. After they pick up, it rings the dialed party's phone. After the call, the receiver has the option to whitelist or blacklist the number.

Stupid question from across the Atlantic: What? (4, Interesting)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 2 years ago | (#41703765)

What is a robocall? We just don't have them where I live (Western Europe).
Also, since we don't have robocalls, and have never had them, how difficult can it be?

Re:Stupid question from across the Atlantic: What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703807)

Yes we do, I'm in London and I get automated calls from, I think, banks or insurance or something. I'm not sure, I always hang up within seconds, but they are here.

Re:Stupid question from across the Atlantic: What? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703915)

Our solution to this is to put the phone on mute and leave it off the hook. If they're going to interrupt our time they might as well pay for it.

Re:Stupid question from across the Atlantic: What? (3, Interesting)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#41703831)

It's an automatically dialed call that plays a recorded message. Common sources include:
- Scam artists. A classic one is claiming to be from "cardholder services [time.com] ", and if the victim calls back will attempt to get the victim to divulge personal and banking information. These are illegal, but it's hard to find out who's dialing.

- Political campaigns. These are very very common in early November in places that can determine major elections. The idea is to use robocalls from a nominally independent group to put out a message that you want voters to hear but not to have your candidate say on TV. There's now also a serious risk of these backfiring, so there have also been instances of campaigns pretending to robocall as the other campaign.

Re:Stupid question from across the Atlantic: What? (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#41703853)

Robocalls are when a computer goes through a list of phone numbers (or sometimes just tries every possible number in an area) to deliver an automated message (usually an advertisement). It's very similar to spam on the computer, but harder to filter out (voice vs text) and legal is some cases (if you opt-in, or have already established a relationship with that company) and can actually cost people money in the form of their time, missed calls and most prominently, cell phone minutes.

As an aside, politicians have made sure to include political campaigning as a legal form of robocalling, even if you've never opted in and have no relationship with that party/campaign/candidate. In my opinion, this is a bigger problem than the illegal corporate robocalling.

Re:Stupid question from across the Atlantic: What? (1)

ifrag (984323) | about 2 years ago | (#41704063)

but harder to filter out (voice vs text)

As far as content aware filtering, yes perhaps much more difficult. However, for exact matching purposes this should be somewhat straightforward. Simply record the first small portion of outgoing phone calls, and after detecting an outgoing call which is an extremely high match with some number of past calls made block that number. Thresholds could be set on counts, match %, number of calls, block duration, etc.

Re:Stupid question from across the Atlantic: What? (1)

Xest (935314) | about 2 years ago | (#41703877)

Of course Western Europe gets them. I live in the UK and business lines are often subjected to them, but in the past I've had mobile and land lines that are subjected to them too.

Any call you receive with an automated pre-recorded message, or just about any call where it just goes silent when you pick up, is a robocall.

Re:Stupid question from across the Atlantic: What? (2)

camperdave (969942) | about 2 years ago | (#41703937)

A robocaller is a machine that calls your phone and plays a recorded message, usually a sales pitch. A robocall is a call from one of these machines. It's the telephone equivalent of spam. I find it difficult to believe you don't have them in Europe. Maybe you've just been lucky and dodged the bullet.

Re:Stupid question from across the Atlantic: What? (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#41703963)

What is a robocall? We just don't have them where I live (Western Europe). Also, since we don't have robocalls, and have never had them, how difficult can it be?

You don't? I'm in the UK and we do.

Re:Stupid question from across the Atlantic: What? (1)

Dupple (1016592) | about 2 years ago | (#41704025)

In the UK and we get them. I usually say two words and hang up. One of the Words begins with Fuck, the other one begins with Off.

I'm getting less of them.

Money. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703771)

How about a simple small minimum charge per phonecall from the phone companies? They make more money, robocallers can't afford the premium on call-spamming, customers will hardly notice the difference, everybody wins.

Re:Money. (3, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 2 years ago | (#41704075)

Speaking of spamming, why not just build something into the phone system for users to flag phone calls as robocalls. Whenever you get one, hang up, and dial *54 or some other code. That sends a message to the phone company that whoever called is a robocaller. After enough negative feedback against a particular source, that source is blocked. Sure systems can route their calls through other sources to make it look like they are coming from somewhere else, but that just puts some onus on whoever is providing these services to block robocalls on their own end. Provide them with the time and location of the call, and they should be able to track where it came from. Most robocalls probably come directly from the entity making the calls, or a contracted out to some other company who does the robocalls for them. Start blocking the calls, and they will stop doing it.

top bookmarking sites (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703773)

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  promote your sites where is large traffic

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Re:top bookmarking sites (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703997)

Can we block robo-slashdot-posting too?

One possible solution (2)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 2 years ago | (#41703781)

Make the carriers detect specific calling patterns and delay/block/penalize continuation of such patterns.
That should catch any robocalls.
It may also catch non-robocalls such as direct marketing calls. ...so it actually solves two problems.

Re:One possible solution (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#41703897)

However, there are some legal robo-calls. While these are mostly spam as well, it wouldn't be right to automatically block them as they are legal (unless users request it).

fine the phone companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703793)

Originating phone provider pays $1000/call.

Done. Easy. Solved.

DId you see the part about the prize? (4, Informative)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | about 2 years ago | (#41703799)

Why are people posting their ideas here? Didn't they see the part about the prize?

Re:DId you see the part about the prize? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703881)

Because they don't care. Those solutions are very easy to implement (a huge fine for example), and they would have done that already since it seems to be such a big problem in the USA.

Re:DId you see the part about the prize? (1)

jkflying (2190798) | about 2 years ago | (#41703893)

This is /. where most people don't even bother to read TFA, never mind the linked 27 page PDF...

Re:DId you see the part about the prize? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703971)

Why are you writing here rather than submitting thier ideas?

Re:DId you see the part about the prize? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41704071)

You must be new here. We're geeks. If we recognize a problem, we'd rather solve it now than wait and get paid for it.

Same way you do spam... (4, Interesting)

The1stImmortal (1990110) | about 2 years ago | (#41703805)

Just run the phone number equivalent of a blacklist directory. Exempt such directories from any legal liability, and just make it compulsory for telcos to provide (as an opt-in service) call filtering based on the blacklisting.

The carriers always know the calling number even if the caller id is blocked, so it should work if done at the exchange.

Alternatively, someone could throw together a little telephony device (or app in the case of smartphones) that sits in between the phone and the wall socket and queries public blacklists based on caller ID, and screens out anonymous calls.

Not that hard surely?

Simple Solution (0)

CFBMoo1 (157453) | about 2 years ago | (#41703813)

Well we have privatized prisons now so it's easier to compete with places like China. Lets toss them in there for a while and let them live off 10-15 cents an hour. Lovely incarceration rate we have in the USA by the way.

Eliminate phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703815)

Seriously. Eliminate phones. They suck.

Lack of User Controls (1)

AxDx (1184351) | about 2 years ago | (#41703825)

I have always wanted to see something similar to a firewall embedded in phones that allows you to completely block specific phone numbers. They would get a short message stating they are blocked from the number. First time they call it's a pain, but you block them and enjoy the hassle-free life once more. The FTC could then have some way of citizens posting those numbers. FTC gets one heck of a lead sheet and my family and I can be assured that every time our phone rings, it's someone we actually want to call...

Re:Lack of User Controls (1)

foniksonik (573572) | about 2 years ago | (#41703985)

Use Google Voice / Grand Central or whatever it's called. Give out a new number (you get many numbers) and set up a pre screening catch all. Then review any caught calls at your leisure and block spam.

The initial setup is a pain but you get the control you want.

Re:Lack of User Controls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41704033)

I have an app called root call blocker for android that does exactly that. It can do either blacklisting or whitelisting.

PPI robocalls (1)

RogueyWon (735973) | about 2 years ago | (#41703827)

We've got a real plague of robocalls in the UK at the moment - I'll get a couple per weekend and if I'm at home for any reason during the week, I'll generally get 2-3 each afternoon. They're all from ambulance-chasing law firms trying to get people to bring lawsuits against banks following recent court verdicts on Payment Protection Insurance mis-selling.

Now, there's no denying that some of the banks were very naughty indeed on this issue. However, the robolawyers have no way of knowing whether the people they're contacting have ever taken out PPI and there have been many cases of people bringing suits on the basis of these calls despite never having taken out a loan with PPI.

My own modest proposal? Make the firms in question liable for a portion of the banks' own liabilities on PPI mis-selling (which are vast), remove any personal indemnities from the partners in said firms and do not allow them to apply for bankrupcy until they have disposed of absolutely all of their sale-able assets, including any internal organs that might have black market value.

Feels reasonable, all things considered.

Follow the money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703829)

Set up honey pot inbound numbers on the do-not-call list before they're even active. Have FTC staffers lead the pitchers on to find out where payment is to be directed. Then bam, seize assets and levy fines.

Just move into the digital age (3, Interesting)

WaywardGeek (1480513) | about 2 years ago | (#41703837)

The existing phone system is a dinosaur. We should switch to a modern digital P2P system where everyone has an online identity. The first time someone wants you to receive and e-mail from them, charge them $0.01. The first time they want you to answer their call, charge them $0.05. We need an electronic currency that enables fast micro-transactions, and we need to stop acting like the world is still plastered with individual analog phone lines rather than being all digital. Simply put, we need to take advantage of he capabilities of the hardware we already built.

As opposed to stupid election calls? (1, Insightful)

gelfling (6534) | about 2 years ago | (#41703857)

I get tons more of those.

Business Proposal (4, Funny)

gmuslera (3436) | about 2 years ago | (#41703885)

The problem with robocalls is that there are humans behind. We propose a robotic solution for it.

Our company, Cyberdyne System, offer advanced technology in automatization, artificial intelligence and robotics. We propose to build smart assistants to help to solve some of today's world problems, including robocalls, internet trolls, lawyers, and politicians. A central mainframe will take orders and deliver them to the assistants, but they anyway will have an AI smart enough to make choices if they are offline. In a future we might make them look like humans, maybe using famous actor faces to make them look less intimidating.

needs more (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41703895)

If they would include these "automated calls by political parties, charities" then the contest might have a few more takers and quite a few more users if implemented.

Simple (3, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | about 2 years ago | (#41703911)

Set up and advertise a number.

If people get a call they didn't solicit, encourage them to dial that number. It can be automated and will list the previous X calls to their number, with time, date and duration. Let them mark those calls as spam or not.

Collect the results nationally, the ones who are spam could easily be shut down in a matter of minutes by distributing a list of numbers that have seen a sharp rise in the number of complaints against them.

Additionally, callers can use it as a blacklist tied into their telco so that numbers they have PERSONALLY flagged can never, ever, ever again dial their number even if it's not accepted as "spam" on a national scale.

Then enforce valid Caller-ID numbers for even international calls even if they are never displayed to the end caller. Anyone spoofing a Caller-ID (or allowing Caller-ID's on their network to be spoofed by not just IGNORING what the sender has sent but replacing it with the Caller-ID info of the end transit) that's not been assigned to them loses all their connections.

A couple of bits of legislation, an automated call centre (which shouldn't be hard to set up for those people COMBATTING automated call centres), and you're done.

Sure, some will still get through, but will be killed quickly, will be nowhere near as profitable, will have real consequences, will stop the majority of users being subjected to it, and will look like you're actually getting off your backside and doing something about the problem.

Out the perps (1)

seven of five (578993) | about 2 years ago | (#41703955)

Publish the home phone numbers of the people who run robocall businesses.

*FO (4, Interesting)

anyaristow (1448609) | about 2 years ago | (#41703987)

*FO to report a call as abusive or illegal. Too high a percentage of *FO responses gets your service terminated.

Charities and Politicians (2)

tgd (2822) | about 2 years ago | (#41704019)

The best fix is to make any automated dialing except those explicitly opted-into illegal. For everyone, including charities, non-profits and political campaigns.

95% of the automated calls I get are from places that are currently legal, anyway.

Caller ID (2)

ruiner13 (527499) | about 2 years ago | (#41704021)

Isn't the main problem that it is trivial to fake or block the real caller ID? If this was fixed, finding the actual source of the calls for prosecution would be straightforward. Right now, they are forging the numbers in a way even the phone companies can't seem to find the origin for the calls. That seems like a problem... and a solvable one.

$50,000 only? LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41704043)

How long before these companies set up a prize pool to bypass whatever ideas $50K buys for FTC?

Just sayin' :-)

Make the phone companies responsible (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41704051)

For the phone networks, it should be trivial to detect that a single caller is calling hundreds of different numbers where the other side of the line is always the first to disconnect the call, typically when the full (repetitive) message is still in full play/hasn't been fully delivered yet. That should suffice to flag such a caller as harasser/spammer.

In addition, humans will typically call mostly people they know, whereas robocallers (and spammers in general) do the opposite, which is to mostly call strangers that they don't know. (Don't tell me the phone companies don't already have your network of contacts/social network stored somewhere... I don't buy it).

You're Doing It Wrong.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41704055)

Convert all calls to VOIP.... Land line, cell, all of them.

Utilize known reputation, and centralized collection technologies to weed out the "spammers"...
IPS type technology could monitor for "intrusions" into the system with some creative changes.
This could even spawn a market for "home based" blocking where you purchase a device, similar to a firewall, that would only allow the people you want to contact to call you back. DHCP and NAT for the VOIP calls may be an issue here, but certificate based authentication models could be put in place to "trust" known sources regardless of their IP.

It's all going VOIP eventually anyway.

Why the hell do phones not have a firewall?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41704061)

I did make my own phone firewall in 2001, after some dick harassed me on the phone.
It’s just a software answering machine that has a phone book as a white list, and a group/entry-to-behavior mapping list so I can have different behaviors for different groups.
I even added a functionality so I can switch it to different modes like "away", "sleeping", etc, like with an instant messenger.

It’s only a small python script, that used to run on CapiSuite, and now on (the horrible over-engineered mess that is) Asterisk on my landline. (I would port it to Android, but the fuckin' thing doesn't [or at least didn't] have any fuckin' APIs to handle calls!! [Which is completely silly, since Nokia had those APIs since the very first J2ME-compatible phone, and later even added EAX-like sound APIs, which were really cool.])

And it served me very well all those years.

Of course nowadays, I'm going for a purely instant-messenger-based solution (read: XMPP and Jingle), and do away with primitive stuff (including SIP/Skype).
Well, as soon as everyone gets off of Skype.

A "Report Spam" button/app for your phone! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41704065)

no text ;)

*Spam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41704095)

Enforce a law to create a "*SPAM" or #666 or such number/feature that flags the caller as spam. Then have the carriers increase the price for their calls exponentially based on the number of people that flag them as spam. Eventually it'll cost too much for these companies. Also people should be allowed to block numbers that are flagged as SPAM entirely.

CAPTCHA (0)

Mafiasecurity (2561885) | about 2 years ago | (#41704099)

Create an inbound CAPTCHA system. Problem solved. Caller annoyed. Of course, this would also prevent legitimate automated calls, but will create new jobs!

Allow blocking at phone company or phone (1)

aclarke (307017) | about 2 years ago | (#41704101)

This isn't really a solution, but I want to be able to tell my mobile phone (or provider) that I only want certain calls to ring through, or that I'm automatically rejecting certain calls. This is sort of like how I mark some emails as spam. I want to be able to tell my iPhone that I don't want Rogers to allow 888-555-1212 through. You know, that number that calls you every day, and there's just a click on the other end of the phone when you answer.

There would be bonus points given to this process if the numbers were then passed to a centralized database, where they were ranked by number of callers blocking, number of calls blocked, etc. Then the FTC/CRTC/whomever would investigate the worst (potential) offenders, and move down the list.

It's just spam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41704121)

Micropayments.

Every call costs a penny. Too bad it wasn't my idea.

Does it have to be non-violent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41704139)

Hm, an automated call-tracing software combined with a couple of Predator drones... it's just a computer, so the worst thing that happens is some collateral data loss in the data center, right?

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