Got an idea on how to stop those annoying robocalls from interrupting your family dinners? The FTC wants to give you $50,000.
The Federal Trade Commission this week announced two contests to spur the fight against automated telemarketing messages. One challenge, "Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back," asks contestants to create a technical means for consumers to identify and forward unwanted robocalls to a central data collection point, or "honeypot." The other, "DetectaRobo," seeks algorithms to spot which calls in a ream of data are likely to be robocalls.
Both would help the government come up with an "early warning system" to better identify and to stop robocalls in real-time, said Robert Anguizola, Assistant Director in the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, Division of Marketing Practices.
"We could instantly almost while the robocall attack is happening, record the message, and gather information about where the call is coming from," he said. "It helps you find out who the target is sooner."
The contest was announced the same day the FTC charged Caribbean Cruise Line Inc. with making "billions" of illegal robocalls to sell cruises to the Bahamas.
The FTC gets about 150,000 robocall complaints from consumers each month.
"We're delighted to see the FTC find new technological ways to find bad actors," said Direct Marketing Association spokeswoman Rachel Nyswander Thomas. "It's very smart for regulators to look to the private sector for that expertise."
Here are 4 tips if you want to cut down on robocalls:
- Don't talk to them. Even if you try to waste the telemarketers' time, the FTC has found consumers who engage with robocallers in any way, even negative, are going to get more robocalls.
- Report calls early and often to the FTC at ftccomplaintassistant.gov. Getting that data is critical for guiding the FTC's enforcement actions.
- Register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry at donotcall.gov.
- Consider signing up for a free third-party robocall-blocking service such as Nomorobo, itself a previous winner of this FTC contest.