It’s one of the less pleasant aspects of modern life — answering the phone only to find yourself talking to a pre-recorded telemarketer. Despite being illegal in many areas, however, robocalls persist — and they generate tens of thousands of consumer complaints each month. The problem is so vexing, in fact, that the government is now offering $50,000 for anyone who can figure out a way to block them.
The Federal Trade Commission figures crowdsourcing is the best solution to the problem of pre-recorded sales calls. The agency has launched the ‘FTC Robocall Challenge‘ to “to tap into the genius and technical expertise among the public,” according David Vladeck, the head of the FTC’s consumer protection bureau.
Robocalls are illegal unless a consumer gives consent in writing to receive them. Still, many companies see them as a low-cost, low-risk way of reaching — and often scamming — thousands of customers. One of the most notorious of these was the infamous “Rachel from Cardholder Services” scam, in which 2.6 billion people were called and nearly 13 million suckered into paying a fee to reduce their credit card rates.
But NewsFeed, we hear you saying — it’s election season, I live in a battleground state, and I practically have to unplug my phone to get a moment of peace from robocalls. Well, automated political pitches are exempt from the U.S. Do Not Call Registry, so unfortunately those calls will continue no matter how many tech geniuses build the FTC a better mousetrap.
The contest, which runs from Oct. 25 to Jan. 17, is open to any individual, team or small corporation (fewer than 10 people). You can head on over to the FTC website for more information on the contest and robocalls, including a handy ‘Robocall Infographic.’ The winner of the contest will be announced in April. An added bonus? As Vladeck put it, “The winner of our challenge will become a national hero.”