The Federal Trade Commission is beefing up its efforts to stop robocalls. Let’s review how illegal robocalls get your phone number, why you keep getting robocalls even when you’re on the Do Not Call List, and how you can help the FTC end these annoying calls once and for all.
Everyone hates robocalls. These pre-recorded telemarketing calls interrupt thousands of family dinners and quiet evenings across America every night. There’s no end to them and the problem is getting worse.
Robocalls: An Epidemic and A Threat to Consumers
On Scambook, we’ve heard from hundreds of users about robocalls from companies like SurveyCruise.com and CaribbeanCruise.com. Nationwide, the FTC receives over 200,000 robocall complaints every month.
“The FTC hears from American consumers every day about illegal robocalls and how intrusive they are,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz in a recent press release.
The FTC has brought 12 cases against illegal robocalls, forcing the offenders to pay $5.6 million in penalties. Last year, they brought down a company called Asia Pacific. NPR reports that this single company was responsible for 2.5 billion robocalls in a period of 18 months.
That’s a lot of interrupted dinners, but robocalls are more than annoying. As we know, these calls try to exploit you. David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, told NPR that “most of the robocalls we see are for scams.”
One robocall company, SurveyCruise.com, has affected over 400 Scambook members. Members report damage caused by SurveyCruise is $7,974,733.86!
How Robocalls Work and Why They’re Getting Worse
In 2009, legislation outlawed most types of robocalls in the US. But telemarketers and scammers exploit VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) technology to continue blasting millions of unsolicited, automated calls.
They get around the law, and consumer protections like the national Do Not Call List, by hosting their operations overseas. You can’t block them because their autodialers can call from thousands of different numbers. Block one robocall number and another will take its place. It’s the same technique used in smishing.
This infographic, released by the FTC, explains how robocalls work. Click on the image to enlarge:
The FTC’s infographic describes how VoIP enables a cheap, scalable model for illegal telemarketing that spans the globe. The off-shore VoIP centers use an auto-dialer to call you, then plays a pre-recorded message that prompts you to answer “qualifier” questions. If your responses qualify, your number is added to a special list and you’re transfer to a telemarketer or scammer.
Because VoIP technology is inexpensive and readily available around the world, shutting down robocall centers is a formidable task. When the FTC or other authorities come knocking, the robocallers just pack up and move. That’s why the FTC is looking for another alternative.
You Can Help Stop Robocalls and Win $50,000
Have you ever slammed down the phone after getting a robocall, and thought up a brilliant way to block them? The FTC wants to hear from you. Join the FTC Robocall Challenge and submit your idea by January 17. From http://robocall.challenge.gov:
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is challenging innovators to create solutions that will block illegal robocalls. These solutions should block robocalls on landlines and mobile phones and can operate on a proprietary or non-proprietary device or platform. Entries can be proposed technical solutions or functional solutions and proofs of concept.
The vast majority of telephone calls that deliver a prerecorded message trying to sell something to the recipient are illegal. As technology has advanced over the years, so have the number of illegal robocalls.
The winning solution will win $50,000 in cash, as well as opportunities for promotion, exposure, and recognition by the FTC. Solvers will retain ownership of their solutions.
For more details or to enter your submission by January 17, go to http://robocall.challenge.gov or visit ftc.gov/robocalls.