Robocall – “a telephone call from an automated source that delivers a prerecorded message to a large number of people.”


You know what they are – those irritating calls from telemarketers that come just as you are sitting down to dinner or the ones that pollute and commandeer telephone lines for months before elections.

Not all robocalls are bad. We appreciate (usually) reminders from our doctor or dentist about upcoming appointments; or calls from our city about garbage collection and recycle weeks; or about school closings; or even emergency or weather alerts.

However, robocalls, besides being pesky, can be downright fraudulent. Fraudster calls impersonate legitimate organizations to get money, donations, even personal information to commit identity theft. Fraudulent calling is an estimated $10 billion industry.

The Federal Trade Commission was so concerned about the rise in robocalls that it challenged techie “innovators” to create solutions that block illegal robocalls. The prize for such a solution would be $50,000!


There were actually two winning solutions for the FTC Challenge. The winners were announced this past April (2013). And each winner received $25,000.

The winning innovators are Serdar Danis and Aaron Foss.

• “Danis’s proposal, titled Robocall Filtering System and Device with Autonomous Blacklisting, Whitelisting, GrayListing and Caller ID Spoof Detection, would analyze and block robocalls using software that could be implemented as a mobile app, an electronic device in a user’s home, or a feature of a provider’s telephone service.

• Foss’s proposal, called Nomorobo, is a cloud-based solution that would use ‘simultaneous ringing,’ which allows incoming calls to be routed to a second telephone line. In the Nomorobo solution, this second line would identify and hang up on illegal robocalls before they could ring through to the user.”


NoMoRoboCalls is now available as of September 2013.  Their website is

Legitimate Robocalls

The only robocalls that are considered legitimate according to the FTC are:

• Informational Calls only (e.g. cancelled flight information; appointment reminders). These type calls cannot promote the sale of goods or services.

• Certain health care providers (e.g. prescription reminders)

• Political calls (this one is a head scratcher to me….)

• “Prerecorded messages from banks, telephone carriers and charities also are exempt from these rules if the banks, carriers or charities make the calls themselves.”

NOTE: “ It’s against the law to place auto-dialed and pre-recorded calls to cell phones, except in case of emergency or if the recipient has expressly consented to being called”


Other Solutions for Dealing with Robocalls

There are some low tech solutions you can observe as well to do battle with the vexatious robocalls. You probably do some of these already:

1. Register your phone number on the Do Not Call List or 1-888-382-1222.

2. HANGUP as soon as you realize you have a robot on the other end of the line. DO NOT press 1 or any other number that will supposedly remove your number from their “list”. This activity only confirms you are a real live prospect.

2. Never Ever give PERSONAL INFORMATION to anyone, even if you suspect it is from a known and trusted source. If you suspect the call is legitimate, get the correct phone number from the source’s website and call them back.

3. Ask your phone provider to BLOCK the phone number. This solution might work if the provider is willing to do it. They might charge a fee.

• Spoofing of phone IDs makes it difficult to get the real phone number of the caller – the call looks like it is coming from a local caller but it is not the caller’s real number.

4. Search online for other solutions. There are fee based solutions available.

Report Fraudulent Calls

• Report fraudulent calls to the FTC – or 1-888-382-1222

• Verizon Unlawful Call Center – 1‐800‐257‐2969

Reporting these calls DOES have an impact. The FCC is cracking down on violators, especially marketers who violate the law by calling cell phone numbers. Violators of the cell phone laws are liable to penalties of $16,000 per illegal call! And penalties are being assigned…. YES!

If I were The Top Dog, I’d make sure these rules were enforced; penalties would be assigned and collected; and the money collected would help pay down the national debt. What a thought – Robocall crooks helping to balance the budget….