Posts Tagged ‘Robocalls’

Stopping Robocall Abuse

Friday, May 15th, 2015
Technology to Fight Robocalls

Technology to Fight Robocalls

Robocalls are not just annoying; they lower our productivity. But solutions are available to reduce the intrusions robocalls make to our work lives.

Robocalls are auto-dialed, pre-recorded marketing messages made to landline and mobile telephones or unsolicited text messages sent to wireless numbers. Certain auto-dialed messages, such as emergency weather alerts or calls to landline phones made to raise funds for non-profit organizations, are permitted by law. But unsolicited, auto-dialed marketing calls are not. Regulatory agencies appear overwhelmed to fight robocall abuse; each month, more than 150,000 people complain to the Federal Trade Commission and to the Federal Communications Commission about robocalls, far more than the reported violations of the government’s Do Not Call Registry made by live telemarketing solicitations. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology enables robocallers to escape detection by using spoofed, or phony, telephone numbers, making it near impossible to trace the calls. So the Federal Trade Commission decided to fight fire with fire by offering a $50,000 prize to the most promising technology to fight robocalls.

One of the prize winners was Aaron Foss, founder of Nomoboro, a call-blocking technology. Foss estimates that 35 per cent of all calls placed to telephones in the United States are robocalls. Even if you are savvy enough not to fall for the fraudulent scams of the robocallers (who often seek information such as your social security or credit card numbers), you are still being robbed if you receive a robocall. If the call or text message comes to your wireless device, the minutes or text count against what you have paid for on your monthly plan. But the biggest loss is that of time and productivity. Both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times reported (in contexts other than robocalls) the cost of frequent interruptions, such as

  • Increased frequency of errors made when performing tasks. Even an interruption as short as 2.8 seconds is sufficient to double the error rate made when a person is performing work.
  • Lost productivity. It takes, on average, 25 minutes, to resume a task after being interrupted.
  • Increased rates of stress and illness. Losing one’s concentration from frequent interruptions correlates with higher stress-related ailments, such as fatigue and headaches.

At home, you can screen calls from unknown numbers with your answering machine or voice mail, but that is not a viable option for small business owners who must be responsive to potential customer inquiries. Nomorobo, one of the winners of the FTC’s challenge award, may be able to help. It is a free service that intercepts all calls after the first ring and compares the caller’s number with its database of known robocallers. If the call appears to be legitimate, it goes through and the phone continues to ring normally. If not, the call is blocked. The number of false positives (that is, calls that should have gone through but were mistakenly blocked) is reported to be negligible. If you have the experience of losing a legitimate call, you simply add the caller’s telephone number to your wanted-call list so the call will go through next time.

The FTC advises that you should not answer a robocaller as that only invites more abuse. Typically, the robocall recording will ask you to press “1” to accept their marketing offer and speak with a live agent or “2” to be removed from their calling list. Pressing any number confirms to the robocallers that it has successfully identified a live telephone account (the numbers to which they place calls are often randomly generated, so unless someone answers, the call software doesn’t know it found a target) and you will only receive more calls, even if you asked to be removed from the call list. I am trying out Nomorobo to see how it works for my business. According to its website, Nomorobo claims to have blocked nearly 33 million harassing robocalls. Anything that stops unwanted interruptions is like found money and this service is free.