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

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  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:30PM (#43339435) Journal

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @01:31PM (#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.

  • by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @02:34PM (#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.

  • Crude ACL (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PhraudulentOne ( 217867 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @02:55PM (#43340595) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by somarilnos ( 2532726 ) on Tuesday April 02, 2013 @04:13PM (#43341547)
    With that in mind... Rasmussen still gets enough people to respond to actually publish polls, and they strictly make automated calls to gather this information. That means that their intended purpose (spamming a large enough population with a low percentage chance play) is still a successful business model. All it is is spam for phones, and it wouldn't happen if it didn't work. No matter what peoples' attitudes are towards it.

"What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying." -- Nikita Khrushchev