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Government Spam Wireless Networking Your Rights Online

FTC Offers $50,000 For Best Way To Stop Robocalls 614

Posted by samzenpus
from the dial-A-for-annoying dept.
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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FTC Offers $50,000 For Best Way To Stop Robocalls

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:03AM (#41703701)

    Problem solved.

    • Re:Death Penalty (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kergan (780543) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:05AM (#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: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

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

        • by jd2112 (1535857)
          The people behind robocallers are recreational reproductive organs.
          • Re:Death Penalty (Score:5, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 19, 2012 @09:45AM (#41705793)

            PEOPLE. PLEASE READ THE COMMENTS BEFORE POSTING!!!

            YOU MAY THINK THAT SOMEONE IS CALLING YOUR SPECIFIC PHONE NUMBER.

            THEY DID NOT. THEY DID NOT CALL YOUR NUMBER SPECIFICALLY.

            YOU WERE RANDOMALLY "ROBO" CALLED WITH A SPOOFED PHONE NUMBER ON A CALLER ID FOR A SCAM COMPANY.

            Important message to all those that have received a call from this number:

            There are several companies engaged in scam business using auto dialers. They are ALL scam outfits. They spoof phone numbers of victims all the time. Sometimes, they spoof non-working phone numbers. The phone number you searched for is just another victim of these scumbags. I've done a lot of research of these companies. Actually, there are several affiliated companies, that try to scam innocent victims. They are either owned by the same people, or they sell their business model to other crooks.

            One scam is about auto warranties. The other is about credit card debt relief. They even have scams about dish television, home alarms, carpet cleaning, political surveys, free cruises, and more. Their MO is the same. The use an auto dialer, and call thousands of random numbers. They have no regard to the do not call lists. Your demands or complaints to them are worthless. They will continue to call you.

            They will not remove you from their call lists. Why? BECAUSE THEY DO NOT MAINTAIN ANY. THEY ARE CROOKS. THEY HAVE NO REGARD TO THE MANY LAWS THEY BREAK.

            BEING ROBO CALLED BY A COMPUTER IS A FEDERAL CRIME. NEED WE SAY MORE?

            If they call about a car warranty, the message says something as "This is the second notice on your extended vehicle warranty. Press one now to speak to a representative..." The message about credit debt mentions "This is Account Services. We are calling to lower your credit card debt. Press one now to speak to a representative..." or "The is an important call from your cardmember services. This is your Final Notice. We have been trying to contact youâ¦." The message about carpet cleaning begins "This is Diane, would like your carpet professionally steamed cleaned?"

            These crooks can be beaten! Here is an example of what happens if ALL OF US contribute to taking them down by following the steps below:
            http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/press/2012/02-09-12.html [justice.gov]

            So, now you want to get these crooks. WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT THIS? If you want to stop these crooks do the following:
            :
            1) You need to speak to one of their customer service representatives. Pretend to be interested in either lowering your credit card interest rate or a car warranty, having your carpets cleaned, etc. DO NOT GIVE THEM ANY REAL INFORMATION. Do not ask how they "got" you number. (Remember, your number was randomly dialed by a computer)

            Tell them you have $20,000 in credit card debt. Give them a fake credit card number, a fake name, and a fake SS#. If the call is about the auto warranty scam, tell them you own a Ferrari, or a 1937 Dodge (however, if you really own one of those two, tell them you own a Buick). Give a made up VIN number. Or tell them you have 15 rooms of beautiful plush wall to wall carpet. If they ask for your name and phone number, give them the info for the person you hate the most.

            Your goal is simple. You want to engage them in friendly conversation to keep them on the phone for as long as possible. Be nice and friendly. Your goal is twofold. You want to learn as much as possible about them. They will refuse to give you a website, phone number, or maybe even a real company name. They will attempt to give you a generic name such as "Account Services," "Financial Services," or "Dealer Services." This is done for a reason, to throw you and the government off their tracks. Do not accept this. Keep pressing for info during casual conversation. You will need this (see below). Often when pressed for questions, they will hang up on you. Remember, they are instructed to do this. That is why you must not be confrontational. Be fr

      • by Kolisar (665024) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:18AM (#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.

        • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:28AM (#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.
          • by cdrudge (68377) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:54AM (#41704265) Homepage

            The problem is that most of the real difficult companies are hiding their numbers and identities

            BAN anonymous calls or otherwise hiding their numbers and identities. I can't think of a single legitimate reason why a call should be anonymous.
            REQUIRE carriers to supply valid CID information or otherwise allow calls to be identified.
            REQUIRE carriers to have valid information that matches a phone number with a company.

            • by omnichad (1198475)

              No. "Valid" CID is any phone number I own on any account. I want my VoIP service set up to use my Google Voice number for outgoing calls. That should be allowed under the rules, and currently is. Google Voice spoofs the caller ID when someone calls your GV number and forwards the call, and that's how the caller's number shows up on your phone.

            • by NevarMore (248971) on Friday October 19, 2012 @08:37AM (#41704793) Homepage Journal

              This is how we lose our freedoms. An annoyance leads to bans and requirements that impact much more important matters.

              rtfa-troll points out below that anonymous calls are vital for tipsters and whistleblowers. Are you willing to sacrifice that very important check for the sake of not getting a robocall?

              More importantly, there are bans and requirements in place *now* that should prevent these robocalls from happening. Where did you get the idea that criminals follow the law?

          • by Senior Frac (110715) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:57AM (#41704295) Homepage

            Oh that's easy.

            Huge fines, but with the added requirement that the phone company must pay it if the caller cannot be identified.

            "The phone company" being the company where the trace gets lost. The concept that the sender is responsible for provisioning his own caller id is a ludicrous design flaw. Something more akin to ANI is needed (host based)... plus some very aggressive regulatory enforcement. It's a political 3rd rail, however.

            • by omnichad (1198475)

              It's only as ludicrous as it is for email. Email is exactly the same way and people are satisfied with this setup, as there's no better alternative. SPF records in DNS are not a requirement of email, but they haven't solved the problem either.

          • by omnichad (1198475)

            They can't hide their identity from the carrier connecting the call. The carrier has to open a connection both ways. I realize that this doesn't mean you've traced a call to its origin, but you would at least have the ANI information [wikipedia.org] at the carrier side. You can't block that like you can block caller ID because it's used for actually billing the call.

            What we need is to have a way to block calls to sequential numbers, and have carriers share information about callers. If the caller is spoofing different

    • by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:13AM (#41703797)
      Nuke them from orbit (it's the only way to be sure).
    • Re:Death Penalty (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dywolf (2673597) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:34AM (#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

      • Dear FTC,

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

        Signed, Me

        but, but, the politicians (that determine our salary and job security) need them! Won't someone please think of the politicians?

        • Re:Death Penalty (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Friday October 19, 2012 @08:28AM (#41704675)

          but, but, the politicians (that determine our salary and job security) need them! Won't someone please think of the politicians?

          Which is why the politicians underfund enforcement of the current regulations. As a bonus, they pass new laws that still won't be able to be enforced to make themselves look good for re-election. It's a win-win. They look good to the electorate using sound bites on the news (without any real investigation being done by the "journalists" that work at "news" rooms today), and they keep their contributors happy by not actually following through by enforcing these laws.

      • by omnichad (1198475)

        They want to know how to follow through. You've certainly missed the point.

        Ban robo-calls. Sure, that's easy to say in principle, but in practice it's just unenforceable. How do you detect whether a human has dialed the phone or a computer? What's wrong with me having a redial button on my phone? What's wrong with having a computer dial the number for a legit call center to avoid human error?

  • Solution (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:04AM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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

      • Re:Solution (Score:5, Informative)

        by Stewie241 (1035724) on Friday October 19, 2012 @08:09AM (#41704447)

        Our phone carrier (Bell Canada) sometimes calls from a number where the number is listed but the organization name is not listed. I assumed it was a telemarketer or something because it was an 800 number. When I finally picked up after numerous calls from the same number it was them (or at least somebody claiming to be them). Seems I forgot to pay the bill. *Then* they asked for my credit card details to collect payment.

        I asked to speak to a manager and ask about how that correlates to the fact that their website says that their Website [support.bell.ca] says "Do not give out your personal information. Legitimate companies will never call or e-mail their customers requesting information such as passwords, bank account information or a credit card number, unless they are responding directly to an inquiry you know you have made (See Bell’s Privacy article.)".

        Nobody seemed to have anything to say about it other than that it was standard practice for them to make such calls. I had no way of knowing with certainty that it actually was Bell Canada and not some other organization performing a phishing attack.

        • Re:Solution (Score:5, Informative)

          by omnichad (1198475) on Friday October 19, 2012 @08:42AM (#41704859) Homepage

          Whenever you get such a call, you should immediately hang up and call the company at a known good phone number. It's the only way to verify, as the caller could have spoofed their caller ID.

        • Tell them that arrangements for payment are being made and hang up. Call the phone company directly then give the customer service representative the credit card information. I don't care if it was actually the phone company that called me. I still hang up and call them back.
    • 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.

      • Re:Solution (Score:4, Interesting)

        by tqk (413719) <s.keeling@mail.com> on Friday October 19, 2012 @08:18AM (#41704555)

        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 [ask] to be put through.

        No, because it's all automated. Machines do it all. Machines that log their actions in order to bill customers. Since it's all logged for billing purposes, it should be simple to backtrack to the initiator. If it's not possible, they then know what to fix to make that possible.

        I'd be happy to forgo the hefty fines as long as they could show they're gaining on the problem, the bad guys are losing, and I'm not being billed for and losing minutes to them.

        Europeans aren't billed for incoming calls or messages. The initiator is billed instead. How the hell did we end up this boneheaded system instead?

  • by guruevi (827432) <evi@smok[ ]cube.be ['ing' in gap]> on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:04AM (#41703709) Homepage

    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.

    • Also, pass some of that fine bounty to the customer to increase the chances of the incidents being reported.
    • by skine (1524819)

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

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:06AM (#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.

  • Ok, how about this (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Weaselmancer (533834) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:07AM (#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.

    • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:13AM (#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.

      • by jkflying (2190798) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:18AM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Zocalo (252965)
          No, you'd pay your sleezy robocaller to genuinely try and sell your competitor's products. Sales would be met either from stock specifically acquired in bulk for the purpose (and probably netting a small profit into the bargin), or by putting the order through to the competitor directly, like by entering the callee's details into the competitor's website as they are being taken. The latter would be even better, since it would be even harder to claim innocence when the cops can go rooting through the compe
        • no no, you don't buy and ship their product, you genuinely get people to buy from your competitor.You use the credit card numbers supplied to actually place orders with your competitors so that the money trail leads back to them.

          so yes. that simple.

      • 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.
      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:23AM (#41703927) Homepage Journal

        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.

        • 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.

          Not necessarily. They will have a "billing number", but in the case of calls that entered the system over VoIP, this number will generally just identify another phone company. Identifying the actual customer can require the cooperation of multiple phone companies.

          It is a little like asking your ISP to identify an internet user behind a NAT router operated by a different ISP.

      • by dargaud (518470)
        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.
    • by Xest (935314) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:17AM (#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.

    • by dargaud (518470) <[ten.duagradg] [ta] [2todhsals]> on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:48AM (#41704191) Homepage
      That's a good solution. Another one would be to require the phone companies to have a 'declare spam' number. After receiving a spam call, you call that number and simply say "the last caller was a scammer". They are obliged to track down the number (even if hidden), put it in a database, and after enough complaints show up they have to investigate, fine them and cut them off.
  • by captainpanic (1173915) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:09AM (#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?

    • by Bigbutt (65939)
    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:16AM (#41703831) Homepage

      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.

    • 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

      • by ifrag (984323)

        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.

    • by Xest (935314)

      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.

    • 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.
    • by Chrisq (894406)

      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.

    • by Dupple (1016592)

      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.

    • by Tapewolf (1639955) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:53AM (#41704249)

      At work - in the UK - we get lots of recorded messages peddling financial services (getting compensation for mis-sold mortgages) seems to be the current favourite.

      They only seem to call businesses, but they only ever offer services that an individual would require, it's rather odd. It typically starts with "This is an important message..." or "Barclays, Natwest, HSBC..." at which point we usually hang up.

      One of my co-workers will sometimes hold or press whatever to get to the operator, and then lead them on or something similar. On one occasion he repeated the word 'Penrith', over and over again until they hung up.

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:10AM (#41703781) Homepage

    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.

    • 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).

  • by jbmartin6 (1232050) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:13AM (#41703799)
    Why are people posting their ideas here? Didn't they see the part about the prize?
    • by jkflying (2190798)

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

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

      Because this problem is so damned annoying that most of are willing to offer any ideas we have free of charge. The only problem I see is that the odds of the FTC actually doing anything are very remote.

  • by The1stImmortal (1990110) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:14AM (#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?
  • 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 t

  • by WaywardGeek (1480513) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:17AM (#41703837) Journal

    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.

  • I get tons more of those.

  • by gmuslera (3436) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:20AM (#41703885) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • Simple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ledow (319597) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:22AM (#41703911) Homepage

    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.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      So far what they've done is set up a web site [donotcall.gov] that allows people to send in complaints in approximately 2 minutes: You need the number called, when the call happened, whether it was a robocall or a human violating the Do Not Call registry, and as much related information as you can come up with.

  • Publish the home phone numbers of the people who run robocall businesses.
  • *FO (Score:5, Interesting)

    by anyaristow (1448609) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:28AM (#41703987)

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

  • by tgd (2822) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:31AM (#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.

  • by ruiner13 (527499) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:31AM (#41704021) Homepage
    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.
  • 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
  • 1. Require telcos provide a "call identifier" for every incoming call on your phone to you in real time (i.e. the actual caller ID, along with the displayed one), either by phone or online (in your regular online account area)
    2. Set up a site/phone center which allows you to enter/give that unique ID to the FCC, and log your name and address or submit anonymously
    3. Based on the data provided, prosecute the originator of the calls, distribute fines to group tuning in complaints
    4. Profit!

  • by OdinOdin_ (266277) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:46AM (#41704153)

    DTMF activated question and answer phone message. i.e. you record a message "Please dial the answer to this maths question to be connected; what is 25 + 17 ? Dial this into the phone now." You setup a simple pin that then actually starts the ringer on the phone when entered.

    With a phone address book that will bypass this for known callers and numbers (and maybe recent callers that passed). Not really innovative but effective enough. Solution should be simple/cheap/one-chip-digital.

    You can then extend this to have the phone dial back a configured number (free phone, 800 number) with the DTMF of 1 in 100 numbers that call you and fail the test.

    Of course this shifts the problem to simply pay more money for cheap labor answering challenge questions but the only way to defeat this use of the telephone network is to make it economically nonviable.

    This same problem domain as SPAM email, we only needs to make every sender incur a cost to send and CPU power can be that cost, just implement hashcash inside SMTP protocol and the receiver gets to decide how hard (computationally) the problem is, allow the client/sever to exchange cookies to setup good will and reputation over time with many transactions. SPAM problem solved. Now we just need a compute mathematical algorithm that works where one end can create a maths computation problem and compute the solution (by knowing all the data) in very short amount of time, but then hand the problem to the other end to solve (by removing some information) and make is scalable exponentially and iteratively to it keeps working a CPU power gets better. Sure botnets can give them this CPU resource but now the infected user will notice when their CPU is being maxed out and probably get it cleaned sooner!

  • Let me report the number, they go to the address for that number and take billy clubs with them, if they find a computer hooked to multiple phone lines for marketing or robot calls.. Whoever is there they beat the crap out of them and destroy the equipment leaving the pieces all over the place.

    Robot calls will stop almost overnight.

  • by Bigbutt (65939) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:49AM (#41704193) Homepage Journal

    While I don't answer calls if I don't recognize the number, my wife answered one a couple of months back. It was an AI robocall. As in, a not-quite turing AI that asked questions and responded as if someone was there and even had an answer if interrupted. It wasn't a perfect call, you could _just_ realize it wasn't a human but it was subtle.

    [John]

  • I only answer if you're in my contact list and not in the "Spammer" or "Spammer2" contact list (I exceeded the capacity of the first list). I don't answer Unknown and certainly don't answer Blocked calls.

    I like the idea of being able to have a phone company managed black list that just keeps the calls from reaching my phone.

    [John]

  • by realsilly (186931) on Friday October 19, 2012 @07:57AM (#41704301)

    Kill the rule that allows for automated messages to be sent, ALL PHONE CALLS MUST BE FROM A LIVE PERSON WHO CAN INTERACT WITH THE RECEIVER.

    Stop allowing Phone Companies to be Billing agencies for other companies.

    Stop allowing call spoofing, where you receive a call and it's a hand up or something else, you call back and you get the Telephone company message "Sorry but this number is no longer in service."

    Read the fucking web, there are thousands of gripes about robocalling violations.

    Stop all Surveys and Presidential robocalls also.

    Stop allowing companies to SELL OUR FUCKING INFORMATION.

    Fine the telemarketer Managers and the companies large fees.

    Trace the calls. You already monitor all of our lives anyways.

    Repeat violators will be SHOT.

    Don't let out of country business buy phone services in the US.

    Let Anonymous go after them. They are great at track people down who piss them off, and their retaliation will be swift and painful.

    Lets start with some of those.

  • *99 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Friday October 19, 2012 @08:07AM (#41704411)

    Just allow the person receiving the call to hit *99 and have it charge a fee back to the robocaller. If the phone in question is on a do not call list, the caller gets assessed a fee for violating it. Nothing persuade a change in behavior more than having to pay money.

  • by portwojc (201398) on Friday October 19, 2012 @08:14AM (#41704517) Homepage

    Why on earth do we have to do the work of the FTC? It's not enough that they have a cozy government job they now farm out, in the form of a contest, their work. I do have to give them credit. They probably would have just hired some consultant company to do the work and get charged a few million dollars for the plan. So it's at least cheaper... Why on earth do we have these agencies that can't do their own work is beyond me...

  • by Stiletto (12066) on Friday October 19, 2012 @10:53AM (#41706739)

    Make telephone numbers 16 digits or so, so everyone in the world can have millions of them. Now your phone service can include a secondary service through which you can assign yourself randomly generated phone numbers. Use those numbers when signing up for credit cards, web forms, Radio Shack, etc. Give customers the option of making each of their assigned numbers either ring, get silently logged, or get ignored. Only give your "real" number out to friends.

    This will also let you know who's spamming you. "Oh, I gave 483929599838282300406192 out to Best Buy, and lo and behold a credit card telemarketer is logged as trying to call it.

  • by pla (258480) on Friday October 19, 2012 @05:37PM (#41710815) Journal
    Who cares? Cell phones make this trivial for end-users to manage.

    If they block their info, I block their call - 99% done-in-one.

    For the rest, my phone only lets me know I have a call for numbers in my contacts list. If someone else legitimate wants to get in touch with me, they can leave a message.

    Yes, Virginia, we've reached the point of whitelisting all of our means of contact. If I don't know you, I don't talk to you, period... Except, because my cell carrier makes a shitton for text messages (I don't pay, but someone does), I have no way whatsoever to block text messages. I can default the "ring" to totally silent, and override it on my contacts, but I can't outright block the damned things.

You see but you do not observe. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes"

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