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FTC Awards $50k In Prizes To Cut Off Exasperating Robocalls

timothy posted 1 year,14 days | from the award-the-perpetrators-jail-time dept.

Crime 216

coondoggie writes "The Federal Trade Commission today said it picked two winners out of nearly 800 entries for its $50,000 Robocall Challenge which dared technologists to come up with an innovative way of blocking the mostly illegal but abundant calls. According to the FTC, Serdar Danis and Aaron Foss will each receive $25,000 for their proposals, which both use software to intercept and filter out illegal prerecorded calls using technology to 'blacklist' robocaller phone numbers and 'whitelist' numbers associated with acceptable incoming calls." Can't wait until Symantec, Kaspersky, etc. sell competing anti-spammer packages for phones.

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216 comments

Where's that checklist when I need it (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43338901)

Your proposed solution will not stop robocalls because...

Re:Where's that checklist when I need it (5, Insightful)

mbkennel (97636) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339005)

(x) it doesn't make the return from doing illegal activities negative
(x) it doesn't make the people who deserve to go to prison go to prison

Re:Where's that checklist when I need it (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43340055)

a good number of robocalls are from your elected representatives or those trying to get elected. why? because when they passed the "do not call" legistlation.....those people exempted themselves from the rules. Imagine that. Our ruling class makes it so the rules don't apply to them.

Re:Where's that checklist when I need it (3, Interesting)

SJHillman (1966756) | 1 year,14 days | (#43340335)

And yet those are the least interesting, most annoying calls I get. Actually, those are the only robocalls I get. I can't think of a single person that I know that has a neutral or non-negative stance towards political robocalls.

Re:Where's that checklist when I need it (1)

Joce640k (829181) | 1 year,14 days | (#43340547)

a good number of robocalls are from your elected representatives or those trying to get elected. why?

That's self correcting. Eventually they'll figure out it loses votes.

Re:Where's that checklist when I need it (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339103)

Unlike spam, robocalls don't originate internationally and don't use botnets. They can be tracked because the telephone companies must allocate resources to allow them to connect a call (and be charged for it). The problem in the future will be the merging of services like Skype with email. As long as there is no anonymity and there is a high cost for allocating resources in telephone services, things like robocalls can be dealt with.

Re:Where's that checklist when I need it (1)

icebike (68054) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339117)

Half the robocalls I get have no caller id or bugus caller-id.

Here's a better Idea: If you actually HAVE a non bogus caller-ID, go out and arrest someone!

Robocallers that hang up on you... (2)

Rob Y. (110975) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339445)

What's with robocalls that hang up on you if you answer and don't leave a voicemail message if you don't answer. I get at least one of these per day. What can they possibly be trying to determine from that - whether I'm home?

Re:Robocallers that hang up on you... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339603)

It's due to systems which dial a lot of numbers simultaneously and only the first one to answer gets the message.

Re:Robocallers that hang up on you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43340369)

you really don't know what you're talking about, do you?

Re:Robocallers that hang up on you... (1)

icebike (68054) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339775)

Maybe Trying to determine if you are an answering machine or a fax?

Or maybe they are your wife's boyfriend. (Just sayin...)

funny, the caller ID shows my number... (1)

Thud457 (234763) | 1 year,14 days | (#43340385)

Does anyone else get these calls that ask if you have stairs in your house?

Re:Where's that checklist when I need it (1)

yurtinus (1590157) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339207)

(x) It has no impact on political robo-calls, which are the vast majority of robo-calls made and are unsurprisingly, completely legal.

Re:Where's that checklist when I need it (2)

Joce640k (829181) | 1 year,14 days | (#43340507)

Your proposed solution will not stop robocalls because...

It doesn't throw the parasites who installed the robots in prison then throw away the key.

The USA has more people in prison than any society in history but they're the wrong people.

I know ... (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,14 days | (#43338941)

Offer $1k for the heads of anybody who runs one of these organizations. ;-)

It's gotten to the point where pretty much any unknown caller either gets hung up on immediately, or told to PFO since I can't believe they are who they claim to be.

If I actually have any business interest with you, send it to me in snail mail, because I no longer trust incoming calls -- between the fake tech support, notification I've won a cruise, or someone offering to lower my credit card interest but who has no idea of who I am, the vast majority of calls I receive are clearly fraudulent and coming from another country.

Re:I know ... (1)

Bigbutt (65939) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339069)

If you're not in my contact list, leave a message.

If you are in my contact list already identified as a spammer, don't even bother to leave a message.

[John]

Re:I know ... (1)

hawguy (1600213) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339629)

If you're not in my contact list, leave a message.

If you are in my contact list already identified as a spammer, don't even bother to leave a message.

[John]

Do you get multiple spam calls from the same phone number? The only repeat spam calls I get from the same number are political calls - the commercial spammers use made up numbers (or move to different numbers often).

One time I got repeated calls from a politician to join a "town hall meeting", there was no way to opt-out of the calls, so finally after the 3rd one I put him on speaker phone and waited for the question and answer section - they put me live on the call when I asked "Please stop calling me, I'm not in your district and don't know who you are and..." then they cut me off and a staffer took my name and promised not to call anymore. I asked him why the prerecorded blurb in the beginning of the call doesn't let me opt-out of the calls, he said that was a good idea, but I doubt they've implemented it.

Re:I know ... (1)

Bigbutt (65939) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339983)

Actually I do. I get multiple spam calls from mainly home security companies. They're all under two entries (I filled the list for 'Spammers' last year so I have a 'Spammers2' list) so it'll pop up as one or the other when they call.

I also identify as spammers the local marketing companies that try to get me to subscribe to the paper, increase my subscription to the paper from weekends to all week, add cable channels to my subscription, increase my cable subscription (the Xfinity spam calls to add voip and dvr), and whatever other local marketing or long distance marketing folks try.

I will do a google search on the number and for a majority of the unknown numbers, there's an entry in the 800notes site with several entries identifying the number. Once it's identified, I add it to 'Spammers2' and forget about it. There are a couple that turn out to be numbers for folks I actually want to talk to. Once I identify them, I create an entry and accept their calls from then on (or ignore them; like Bonfils the blood mobile folks; they are persistent).

[John]

Re:I know ... (2)

canadiannomad (1745008) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339125)

Except as a normal course of work I do call from another country... I could use skype but it isn't as clear as a land line.

Here is where I see a problem... I'm not too sure, but I seem to remember something about spoofing phone numbers/call display via an asterisk server. If that can be done then using phone numbers would be useless.

Re:I know ... (1)

FireFury03 (653718) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339147)

If I actually have any business interest with you, send it to me in snail mail, because I no longer trust incoming calls

Meh, I get more junk snail mail than junk calls, and even though snail mail doesn't actually interrupt what I'm doing, its still pretty annoying because of the environmental cost and the cost of recycling, which is born by the council (and hence the council tax payer).

I do wish that Ofcom would actually do *something* about the illegal cold-callers and spam SMSers though. They just don't seem to be at all interested in punishing anyone, even where either the cold-callers themselves, or the telco they're using are located within the country.

Re:I know ... (2)

rabidMacBigot() (33310) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339241)

Meh, I get more junk snail mail than junk calls, and even though snail mail doesn't actually interrupt what I'm doing, its still pretty annoying because of the environmental cost and the cost of recycling, which is born by the council (and hence the council tax payer).

Yes, but in the US, at least, bulk mailing subsidizes ordinary first-class letters. It's annoying, but it's the postal equivalent of advertisements on the radio - the noise pays the bills for the signal. I have no idea if it works that way in the UK, though.

Re:I know ... (2)

FireFury03 (653718) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339301)

Yes, but in the US, at least, bulk mailing subsidizes ordinary first-class letters. It's annoying, but it's the postal equivalent of advertisements on the radio - the noise pays the bills for the signal. I have no idea if it works that way in the UK, though.

I have no interest in this subsidy. If someone wants to send me something through the post, they can damned well pay for it rather than expecting me to be subjected to the junk mail just so they can save a bit. Add to that the cost to every household of disposing of the junk, and the net result is it probably doesn't actually make anything cheaper anyway. Junk-mailers should be taxed heavilly.

Re:I know ... (2)

dcollins117 (1267462) | 1 year,14 days | (#43340615)

Junk-mailers should be taxed heavilly.

They should pay the same postage that everyone else has to. Right now they get a discount "bulk rate" even though delivering their junk requires the same effort as delivering first class mail. This would cut down on the amount of their obnoxious spam and help the post office stay afloat.

Also, if a person doesn't want to receive unsolicited mail, it should be trivial (and free) to return it to the sender. Let them throw it away.

Re:I know ... (1)

hawguy (1600213) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339559)

Offer $1k for the heads of anybody who runs one of these organizations. ;-)

It's gotten to the point where pretty much any unknown caller either gets hung up on immediately, or told to PFO since I can't believe they are who they claim to be.

If I actually have any business interest with you, send it to me in snail mail, because I no longer trust incoming calls -- between the fake tech support, notification I've won a cruise, or someone offering to lower my credit card interest but who has no idea of who I am, the vast majority of calls I receive are clearly fraudulent and coming from another country.

Why would you pick up the phone for an unknown caller if you're just going to hang up on them, even if they tell you who they are?

I just let unknown calls go to voicemail, the only calls I pick up are for a few known callers (my boss, my wife, etc), everyone else goes to VM. You can tell within the first few seconds of the VM whether or not you want to listen to the whole thing. With Google Voice voicemail->text transcription, I don't even need to listen to the message to know that it's someone I don't want to talk to.

Re:I know ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339879)

Why would you pick up the phone for an unknown caller if you're just going to hang up on them, even if they tell you who they are?

Because if you don't tell them to fuck off then they robo call back for ever. Even after I told a political party (excluded from do-not-call) to stop calling a few months later they started again and called over 500 times so far at random times of the day, from a blocked number. I turned on do not disturb so only contacts ring, but I'm about to go British Telecom [youtube.com] on them.

Re:I know ... (1)

Mousit (646085) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339601)

Hung up on or told to PFO? Honestly, I'm shocked anyone even answers an unknown call at all anymore. These days Caller ID is almost universal--certainly in the U.S. (this being a story about the FTC), but I'd wager the case is pretty similar in most any first-world nation. And cell phones (smart or dumb, doesn't matter) have contact lists, making CID even more friendly and usable.

I realize a business line gets plenty of unknown calls from real customers so they need to answer, but a personal/home line? A personal cell phone? Does the average person really get a ton of calls from unknown numbers that are actually people they know and/or want to talk to? I suspect the number is so close to zero it's statistically null. Yet incredibly people answer these unknown calls on a regular and consistent basis (and once answered, it's marked "good" in the robocaller's database and you'll be getting LOTS MORE CALLS), certainly plenty enough for robocalling (and fraud calling) to be profitable. I suspect it's the same type of mentality as that which makes business spam profitable enough to continue: just enough people actually read it and accept its offer to make it worthwhile for the spammer.

Unknown calls: just don't fucking answer them. Period. Aside from CID, voicemail is also nearly universal (especially on cell numbers!), so just don't even pick that damn thing up. If it's someone you actually need to talk to, they can leave a message.

I'd love to see whitelisting becoming a standard option available to anyone, too. I'd set my cell to whitelist if I could (I mean at the carrier level, so calls and text don't even go through, not just are ignored by my phone). Maybe I'm just speaking completely for myself and am not representative of the average person, but I quite honestly cannot even remember the last time I received a call that I wanted, from a number that wasn't already known to me. This includes business calls, because quite a number of companies publish the number they'll be calling you on so you know it ahead of time.

Re:I know ... (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339649)

Offer $1k for the heads of anybody who runs one of these organizations

It would be better to expensively fine the businesses who use the robo-callers to advertise their products and services. Once the revenue stream of the robo-callers dries up, the robo-calling will stop.

Re:I know ... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,14 days | (#43340101)

It would be better to expensively fine the businesses who use the robo-callers to advertise their products and services.

Good luck with that ... the calls I get are either from American area codes, or call centers in India who are there just to scam people.

So much of this is going to be outside the reach of any enforcement as to make it a joke. They don't care because nobody can touch them.

Send in the Seals or cal in an airstrike. ;-)

Re:I know ... (4, Funny)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339903)

Dear gstoddart,
Thank our lucky stars we've found you on Slashdot! We have tried to contact you by cell and land phoneline both work, and at home and each time without successful. We have only one chance left to you respond or forever your loss. Please text OKYAGOOD to #3832 to claim free cruise or to #2231 to lower your credit rating!

PS: We have noticed your email is full of virus and we can help you clean that out. Text STOPSPAM to #2002 for reply.

Sincerely,
Hazel from Rhodesia

Re:I know ... (1)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | 1 year,14 days | (#43340175)

the vast majority of calls I receive are clearly fraudulent and coming from another country

Don't your friends call anymore? Don't you have friends? :(

Re:I know ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,14 days | (#43340305)

Don't your friends call anymore? Don't you have friends? :(

Sure, but they email or text ... actual person to person phone calls from home is reserved for calling my parents for the most part.

It's just not a medium I rely on any more, which means the proportion of fraudulent calls is around 90%.

You know... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43338949)

Fifty grand buys a lot of bullets.

Re:You know... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339413)

Like so many things in life, you can throw all the money you want at it; but until you solve the search problem it's mostly futile.

Re:You know... (1)

jcoy42 (412359) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339575)

I don't get robocalls anymore. I won't promise that it'll work for you, but it worked for me.

First, I got google voice and enabled Global Spam Filtering, then I replaced my home phone with an omni. The only number I give anyone is my google voice number (which also rings my cell).

All the robocalls just stopped.

No, I don't work for them, no I don't get kickbacks, and no this isn't a solution for everyone (my landline no longer has 911), But it works for me. So far.

Re:You know... (1)

Dahamma (304068) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339941)

But the search problem is not in fact a problem unless you believe TV crime dramas ("just keep the caller on another 45 seconds so we can triangulate!") If the FTC *really* wanted to solve the problem, they would just require the phone carriers to deal with it. They can already easily detect a recorded message as well as log the source of the call. Sure, there are technically ways of making that harder to do, but for the most part it's not worth the effort or expense just to try to sell you a new roof.

The FTC offering awards to anyone who can fix this problem seems a bit like the police offering awards to anyone who can catch red light runners. They KNOW how to solve the problem, they just don't really care to do it right...

Re:You know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43340549)

Fifty grand buys a lot of bullets.

What are you going to do with bullets? Shoot your phone?

Nuke it from orbit (2)

space_jake (687452) | 1 year,14 days | (#43338971)

It's the only way to be sure.

Re:Nuke it from orbit (1)

icebike (68054) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339261)

Didn't our Patriotic Attorney General claim the right to us Drones to attack Americans on American Soil?
Surely they wouldn't have any reservations against hitting some call center off-shore...

Pfffff 50k? (4, Funny)

dmomo (256005) | 1 year,14 days | (#43338987)

I just got a call from this lady who said I could make at LEAST that much EVERY WEEK all at home using my computer. I even get to go on a cruise for a small deposit.

Like the pirate VS the DRM wars.. (1, Troll)

Joe Behymer (2827761) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339027)

So shall the dialer VS the anti-dialer war continue. My company makes an auto-dialer product used by a lot of these contact centers. We will just outsmart whatever technology sits between us and the callee. That said, some tech-savvy people may be able to beat us, but the general population won't.

Re:Like the pirate VS the DRM wars.. (1)

Bigbutt (65939) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339119)

See, you have to nip these things in the bud. Use $5,000 of that award to send someone to get your head (or your boss's head). :)

You're not going to easily outsmart my simply not answering the phone if the number isn't in my contact list. And even if you did, it would only work once as I'd immediately blacklist the number.

[John]

Re:Like the pirate VS the DRM wars.. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339455)

This doesn't seem like a time to be stingy. Better get both heads, just to be sure. Be sure to have the hitman interrupt right as they are sitting down to dinner and play the obnoxious "THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING" horn noise before finishing the job, of course.

Re:Like the pirate VS the DRM wars.. (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339123)

And here we have it folks, the real reason that Slashdot should not let people log in using Facebook or Google credentials.

Pure, unadulterated evil.

Right here on Slashdot.

Mark my words, it will make the Endless Summer seem like a spring picnic.

Re:Like the pirate VS the DRM wars.. (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339151)

All that needs to happen is to allow users to store and blacklist numbers right on their god damned phone. It's absurd that I have to contact AT&T any time I want to block something, and I have a limited quantity of numbers that I can be blocking simultaneously.

Robodialers aren't like email spam. It's not like you can just toss up a new domain, or route your traffic through a massive bot-net of not-blacklisted zombies. You have to buy phone service, and you can't easily change numbers. Individual blacklisting would work wonders against this.

Re:Like the pirate VS the DRM wars.. (3, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339435)

So shall the dialer VS the anti-dialer war continue.

My company makes an auto-dialer product used by a lot of these contact centers. We will just outsmart whatever technology sits between us and the callee. That said, some tech-savvy people may be able to beat us, but the general population won't.

Your candor is impressive. Most people who attract the loathing of virtually everybody for a living are a trifle more reticient about it.

Re:Like the pirate VS the DRM wars.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339499)

When are you dimwits going to understand that calling people who do not want to be called is a waste of everyone's time?
People who go to even the slightest effort to avoid robocalls (like putting themselves on the do-not-call list) has a ZERO percent chance of becoming a customer.

Re:Like the pirate VS the DRM wars.. (1)

Dahamma (304068) | 1 year,14 days | (#43340185)

Yeah, it seems the only chance they'd have of making money on it is fraud. And since any reasonable person would know that, wouldn't that mean the manufacturers of auto-dialers are therefore intentionally participating in conspiracy to commit a crime? That argument was used successfully already... [slashdot.org]

Re:Like the pirate VS the DRM wars.. (3)

Farmer Tim (530755) | 1 year,14 days | (#43340053)

That said, some tech-savvy people may be able to beat us, but the general population won't.

You mean tech-savvy enough to look up your Facebook account and administer said beating? That's not a particularly high bar...

Europe (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339035)

I live in Europe (France) and I don't receive robocalls. I don't even know why. Might be a good idea to check what is being done on the other side of the ocean.

Re:Europe (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339139)

I live in Europe (France) and I don't receive robocalls. I don't even know why. Might be a good idea to check what is being done on the other side of the ocean.

Well that's an easy one. The minimum wage folks that run these call centers can barely speak English. You expect them to be versed in another language?

Re:Europe (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43340209)

Wait, the auto-dialers are making minimum wage?

Re:Europe (1)

FireFury03 (653718) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339225)

I live in Europe (France) and I don't receive robocalls.

I live in Europe (UK) and I do receive robocalls, spam SMS and domestic spam email. All of these things are illegal here - most of the robocalls are from UK numbers (which suggests that at least the telco they are using is probably based in the UK) and from people with british accents (suggesting they are domestic); most of the spam SMS is from UK numbers, some of the spam email is from reputable british businesses.

Whilst I don't claim you could completely stop all of these things, the fact that the regulator persistently does *nothing at all* to punish the offenders probably has something to do with this...

Co-operation? (1)

robpow (2772251) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339041)

The article is a bit thin on detail on how exactly this will work and I suspect it will be a matter of minutes after the winning solution is implemented until the spammers find a work-around. A couple of key things working against an effective solution are: - Low cost calling. If there was at least some sort of opening fee for calls the ROI for spammers would be too high. - Lack of ID. With many types of phone trunks you can inject the caller ID you want to display and only the core carriers see the true IDs for billing purposes. Basically it's the same problems as SMTP has!

Good old fashioned police work. (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339043)

Hire some investigators to wait by the phone for a robocall. When they get one, play along. While they play along, collect evidence. When you have enough evidence, arrest the perp and send him to prison.

Is this a trick question?

Re:Good old fashioned police work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339231)

Good luck getting one of these spammers to actually admit who they even work for. I've played along in an attempt to get the name of an organisation so I could report them.

One step further... (3, Insightful)

swb (14022) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339243)

...follow the money trail and file a RICO suit against EVERYONE involved in the money trail, especially managers and executives or anyone else who would have "created a climate accepting of working with illegal businesses".

Perp walk those fuckers on national news, naming names and home towns.

If we ratchet up the fear factor high enough, nobody will work with these assholes anymore, and if you can't collect money what's the point? Sure, some politically minded assholes will still robocall ("Stop Obama!", "Legalize Gay Marriage", etc), but if it doesn't make any money, nobody will do it.

There's a big chunk of the "legitimate" economy at work here to keep these guys going -- if we take away their 2% take and make sure some of them do 20 in Lewisberg while desperately holding the soap then this will dampen the urge to dabble at the fringes of the economy.

Re:One step further... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43340569)

Yeah, we'll get right on that after we clean up the stock market and banks.

Why do you hate JERB CREATORS like Bobby Baltimore?!!

How can we groom more homicidal psychopaths to hunt useless eaters like this down and brutally remove them from the gene pool?

Re:Good old fashioned police work. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339439)

Because robocallers are not the people selling goods and services. Robocallers are "lead generators" meaning they sell leads.

Say you get a robocall for burial insurance. You press 1 when prompted, and "play along." A few days later, you get a salesman from ABC burial insurance calling you to sell you a policy. Sue the shit out of ABC, and you find out that ABC never even heard of robocalls, and doesn't know anything. ABC bought "leads" -- names and phone numbers of people who were interested in burial insurance. ABC buys leads like that from several different sources. Some come from door-to-door salesmen, some from live telemarketing, some from web sites visitors who complete a form, etc. They have no idea which lead generator they got your name and address from. (BTW, warm burial insurance leads sell for $5 to $20 a pop).

So ABC didn't make the calls, and isn't liable. Even if they can tell you the lead generator that they got your name and number from, that is a long-gone empty shell, operating a VOIP phone bank from Indonesia, or a block of prepaid SIMs using untraceable wireless numbers.

Re:Good old fashioned police work. (2)

TopSpin (753) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339845)

arrest the perp and send him to prison.

Investigating, arresting and prosecuting people for violating these kinds of laws is unbelievably difficult and expensive and rarely nets more than wrist-slaps. Cases take years, litigators cost millions and there is and endless supply of replacement spammers to replace the prosecuted. Governments executives and their staffs know this and have better things to do.

Finding the least statist solution is my preferred remedy in any case; make the practice economically infeasible by creating a generic regulatory mechanism (white/black lists based on working caller ID and enforced by the network operator, perhaps) and leave the cops/prosecutors/courts/prisons out of it.

The carriers are a part of this as well. They facilitate spammers by deliberately not making caller ID work end-to-end in all cases like it should, streamlining mass account provisioning, etc. They get revenue from calls, spam or otherwise. Even your legislators are part of it; they exempt themselves from robocall laws and email spam laws creating all sorts of loop holes and special exceptions in the system that carriers can and do use to deflect blame.

Completely the wrong approach. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339053)

If a caller can mask or spoof a phone number and hide their identity, the root of the problem is that this is even possible.

If the phone system could trace calls to actual addresses, people and accounts, there would be better ways to deal with this that would be less open to abuse. Even if someone needed a court order, that would be ok, as long as the means for actually finding these idiots exists.

We need a better mechanism for finding the perps.... so that law enforcement can put them in jail or vigilantes can break their legs. Oh, I know, I know, you all say that these calls come from overseas. I don't believe this. 99% of the ones I get appear to be from legit USA numbers. How are these not traceable?

Worthless... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339083)

Worthless. 99% of all illegal robocalls currently spoof their CallerID. I get robocalls that appear to be coming from my neighbors (robocallers frequently spoof a number that is in the same areacode and prefix as the number they are calling). When I subpoena phone records, the calls actually came from across the country from some podunk reseller in California. All that will happen is that robocallers will start spoofing the whitelisted phone numbers.

You need 1) some indication that the callerID has been falsified (i.e. does not match the exchange of the originating ANI) and 2) have carriers impose restrictions on their clients ability to spoof CallerID, such as requiring them to register the numbers they want to spoof in advance, and prove they have a right to use those numbers in outbound calls (such as a call center making calls for a client, where they legitimately need to put the client's inbound 800 number in the outgoing callerID).

Re:Worthless... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339101)

Mod Plus a billion! Why the hell does number spoofing still work? Something is very broken in a system which allows this.

Re:Worthless... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339167)

There is legitimate spoofing. For example, a city needs to robocall people to tell them to boil water due to a water leak/contamination. They hire a robocalling service to do it. But they don't want consumers calling back the robcall service, so the callerID needs to be the callerID of the City office that will take incoming calls.

Re:Worthless... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339211)

Sure, but in your example, the city office would grant explicit permission for a specific agency to call from their number. The original points still stand. Spoofing permission should be very limited and explicit and have an expiration time.

Re:Worthless... (2)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43340203)

Caller ID spoofing works because PABX systems regularly have different outgoing numbers to the most relevant incoming one. When someone calls you from a large company, it's generally useful for their direct number to show up, not the one for the PABX.

Number spoofing, in the sense of spoofing the real originating number, doesn't work and never has. The telephone company knows what number a call really originated from, even if the caller ID doesn't match it.

Re:Worthless... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339391)

When I posted on Craigslist some stuff for sale, I've gotten extortion demands that unless I sent some money offshore via Western Union, that my number and E-mail address would be used for robocall attempts.

I'm VERY glad I used a disposable E-mail address on a service I never use, and the cell number was a disposable prepaid number with a low airtime minute count. Very easy to delete the E-mail addy, lock the SIM card with too many PIN/PUK attempts before destroying it, then drop the phone in a donation basket.

VoIP is trivial to forge caller ID, which is why most debt collectors are offshore agencies, so they don't have to abide by the Fair Debt Collection Act.

As for defense against robocallers, the only real thing is to toss the iPhone, get an Android device and use the Mr. Number app.

Re:Worthless... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339621)

1) Everyone with half a brain uses disposable email addresses on Craigslist, and many classifieds there actually have bi-directional anonymizing emails now, so both poster and replier are masked. This is why scammers are embedding real email addresses in images nowadays, in hopes that dummies will respond and disclose their real email.
2) Why would you ever give a phone number to someone without a very good reason or confirmation that it's a real person? That's just dumb.
3) We're not talking about emails here anyway.

Whistle. (1)

rajanala83 (813645) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339115)

Don't some people use a loud whistle to discourage unwanted callers?

Call From Newton, KS (1)

paleo2002 (1079697) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339205)

Hello! How would you like to have your business appear on the front page of Google search listings AND be automatically whitelisted on millions of residential phones? Press 1 now to speak to a representative and help your business succeed . . .

Tragedy of the commons (1)

benjfowler (239527) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339215)

IF there's any good to come of this, it'll:

1) accelerate the decline of POTS telephony, and
2) everyone will be have been so frazzled by being robocalled at mealtimes by claims farmers (or the scam du jour); that nobody will trust anything a stranger ever says over a telephone, making life much harder for everyone, but especially the scammers, who will have successfully pissed in the well for their friends and future selves. A classic case of the Tragedy of the Commons (where the 'commons' in this case, is the ever shrinking pool of exploitable marks reachable by telephone).

Criminals, in general, are not a very clever lot.

Re:Tragedy of the commons (1)

PraiseBob (1923958) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339541)

1) These calls happen just as frequently (if not more) over cell. (My cell phone usually gets several per day)

2) People have been saying this exact same thing for 30+ years, yet the robocallers are still here.

Overpriced phone companies do not help[ (1)

mauriceh (3721) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339333)

Why can I not do a black ( or white) list of callers on my cell phone?
Even if they charged for it, this would be useful.
Fricking ripoff cell phone providers.

Greetings, friends. Do you wish to look as happy (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339341)

Greetings, friends. Do you wish to look as happy as me? Well, you've
got the power inside you right now. So, use it, and send one dollar to
Happy Dude, 742 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield. Don't delay, eternal
happiness is just a dollar away.

Follow the money (1)

JDG1980 (2438906) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339359)

Rather than try to use technological stopgaps, this should be treated as a law enforcement issue. The purpose of these robocalls is to get people to pay money to the scammers running the operations. Follow the money, and you find the scammers. The FCC should get a surveillance warrant ahead of time, then call up pretending to be a normal customer interested in whatever product or service they're hawking, and pay with a traceable bank account. Find out where the money is going and you've got your perps.

Was expecting something inventive (1)

babtras (629678) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339383)

Isn't blacklisting / whitelisting a bit of an obvious solution? I'm sure someone could have come up with that without opening a competition. I was expecting something more inventive like scoring callers based on frequency of calls, number of different and type of numbers called (residential vs business), attempts to manipulate or block call ID, etc.

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339389)

(click) Hello! Are you tired of receiving those annoying "Robo-Calls" in your home, your office, even in your car? What if I told you that there was a product that recently took first place in a competition sponsored by the FTC that you could use to get rid of these calls... without blocking calls from your friends and family and people you trust? Think how much this would be worth to your peace of mind. Now suppose I told you that you could also get the same high level of protection when you or your family surf the Internet... at no extra charge! Now how much would you pay?

Shouldn't this software be at the telco level? (2)

swb (14022) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339449)

I don't want to run fucking antispamware on my phone.

Telephone exchange operators should be running this software and doing some basic sanity checks on calls entering their networks from the outside of them.

Individuals or businesses abusing trunk lines should be barred from future service. CLECs and other carrier-like entities who permit abuse should lose network access as well.

What boggles my mind about all this is the carriers standing around with their dicks in their hands with a "gee, there's nothing we can do..." attitude.

The FCC should impose fines on the carriers, too, and then we'll see how quickly they can fix this problem.

Whitelists and blacklists? (1)

porkThreeWays (895269) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339501)

This seems like a late 90's solution to email spam. Why not a system that prescreens the call with a welcome message from you. This would trip some sort of probabilistic model that matches known waveforms of audio data that are robocallers. If after a few second delay it doesn't match anything, let the call through. Phone numbers in your contacts list are automatically let through. *123 reports a caller as a robocall at anytime during the call if one gets through. Anti-spam companies already have a good deal of the staff needed to implement this sort of thing. My guess is not enough people are affected by this to think this tech will be profitable.

Re:Whitelists and blacklists? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43340079)

It doesn't have to be that hard. A system that answers with a simple Turing test has eliminated all robocalls from our telephone. The system simply instructs the caller to push a predetermined number in order to make our phones ring for a real human to answer. No machine has made it through yet, and we get 8-10 of them every day according to the call logs.

Even most human telemarketers get the message that we aren't going to be a successful mark and they hang up without following the connect instructions. In the 2 years since we've installed the system we've only had a couple of them actually press the number and bother us.

Ooma has a community blacklist (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339505)

Problem solved.

Simple Turing test is best (2)

MadCow-ard (330423) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339509)

Simple, use captcha type audio to trip up bots. All calls allowed through either from the white list or through a quick Turing test (captcha). 1. Use a white list of all known contacts, and let all from the list directly through. 2. All not recognized calls are given a short recording: "press 123 to continue your call". Rotate the numbers and vary the voice message to ensure its not being translated by the bot. Get creative with Captcha type sentances: How many toes do you have... Nothing too difficult, and nothing too costly. Where's my 50K?

Callback (1)

chrisjwray (717883) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339513)

Simple and already exists, the first time a number is seen the caller gets a machine asking them to leave a message, this then gets forwarded to the recipient who can choose to take the call or not based on the message.
Once the call is taken the number is whitelisted and the caller gets through first time the next time.

NRA (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339517)

Does anybody know why the NRA [800notes.com] robo calls people and then simply hangs up on them when they answer? I've had it happen to me several times. What do they hope to accomplish? I finally called the number that called me, got a NRA recording with no options given to remove myself from their calling list until I hit a random number during their "please tell me more" recording. I'm almost tempted to think that some anti-NRA group is doing it to turn everyone against the NRA. Is the NRA really that stupid?

Re:NRA (1)

pesho (843750) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339697)

Many robocallers wait for sound (like you saying 'Ahoy') before they play the recording. If you just pick the receiver and listen the software quickly hangs up. I imagine it does the same if it detects a fax signal or voice mail 'ping'.

Why do we need a technical solution for that? (1)

pesho (843750) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339653)

This is a regulatory issue (unlike many other technical issues where the US government is more than happy to legislate on). Require phone companies to block spoofed phone numbers and alert law enforcement for their point of origin, unless they are explicitly authorized by the owner of the phone number. Phone companies have the technical capability to do this. What they lack is the incentive to do it. A simple fine would be more than enough to convince them them that it doesn't make business sense to allow robocalls from spoofed phone numbers. We don't even need new laws for this. I would imagine that FTC and FCC have the authority to put such regulations in place under existing laws like once that establish the 'Do not call' list and outlaw wirefraud. Where I can get my $50K?

Where do they get my number in the first place? (1)

Westwood0720 (2688917) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339681)

I'm curious as to where they get my number in the first place. Are the calls just randomly generated to call any ten digits? Or does some company I'm affiliated with sell my info?

Either way, phone rings there's only two people I answer to. The rest goes to VM. I for one wish there wasn't such a need for a phone.

Re:Where do they get my number in the first place? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43339749)

They're random. Pick a relatively populated area code, and you've got a very high chance of the last 7 digits hitting a real phone.

This would solve the problem for me... (1)

NotPeteMcCabe (833508) | 1 year,14 days | (#43339987)

I want an answering machine that answers every call immediately and plays a message saying "To ring this number, press 5." If the person presses 5, it rings my house. If not, it doesn't.

I think this would stop 98% of spam calls that I get. It seems to me that there should be an answering machine with multiple mailboxes that can provide this feature (If you're calling for Pete, press 1, for Pattie, press 2, etc.), but I can't seem to find one.

Stupid (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43340049)

And they picked a system that can't possibility work. It is obvious that they don't want to solve the problem. I'd immediately zero their entire budget, and be done with them.

The solution is trivial. Pass a law that every vendor of phone service must implement a * that bills the caller of the last call $1. You dial it after you get a call you didn't want. The phone company gives you $1 every time you use it. They are obligated to pass this onto the previous hop originator of the call with the relevant call info from that session. If a company making a million calls a day can pay their million dollars a day bill, fine. If they can't, well, then the phone company is free to terminate their service for failure to pay, or otherwise restrict their ability to make outbound calls. This works, because the phone company is in the position to know on which trunk the last call came in on, and _who_ is at the other end of that trunk. They can then bill them, and if the entity on the other end doesn't want to pay, then the phone company can pull the connection, or at least the inbound calls side of that connection.

If this was Canada.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,14 days | (#43340437)

You wouldn't need technology, you'd just do it anyway and blame the robocalls on the rival political party.

Crude ACL (5, Interesting)

PhraudulentOne (217867) | 1 year,14 days | (#43340595)

I run a telephone network in Canada, and I have somewhat of a Crude "ACL" for a system-wide blocklist. I have been using it for years, and it's pretty effective though not very efficient to manage.

I monitor incoming trunks and alarm on spikes. When I get a spike from a robodialer, I look up the number online to see if it's listed as a scam or generic robo call. If it is, I simply add it to my "ACL," and all further calls coming into my system are rejected with a short message. The message states that if they would like to phone anyone on our system they need to first call our main business office (the only number they are allowed to dial) and explain who they are.

I have a large list of obviously fake numbers that I reject (all zeros, 01234567890, 1111111111, etc )

Occasionally I will have a collection agency that phones in and complains that they are a valid business, and that they should be let through (using a number such as 1-000-000-0000. I explain that there is no valid reason why they would need to spoof their number, and that they should dial as PRIVATE or BLOCKED if they want to proceed. I simply do not allow them to phone in.

I'm not totally sure on the legalities of this, but customers love it, and I enjoy the satisfaction of blocking a tonne of calls. I have no way of dealing with companies that spoof local numbers, but I can at least block all of my exchanges as they would never be coming back in over the same trunk group as these robo dialers anyway.

This is one of those projects that I have slowly tweaked over time, but I am considering writing scripts that will go out and crawl those common telephone complain sites to build a list on the fly every week and add those numbers to my 'ACL.' It would be nice if there was an up-to-date 'spamhaus' equivalent for phone numbers.

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