The Federal Trade Commission is declaring war on robocalls. The pre-recorded nuisance calls that routinely interrupt dinners across America have been illegal since 2009, but they’re still an irritating part of daily life.
Thanks to technology that allows violators to disguise their identities, robocalls have begun to tick up after leveling off a few years ago. Americans are bombarded with 200,000 robocalls a month.
Complaints also are up, but enforcement remains hit or miss because of the violators’ ability to generate fake caller ID. That’s why the FTC is turning to the public for help.
The FTC is offering $50,000 to whoever comes up with the best technical solution to the robocall problem. The contest runs through mid-January. The winner will be notified in April.
People who want to stop live telemarketing calls to their homes can register their home and cell-phone numbers with the federal Do Not Call list. But the list does not apply to robocalls, which are covered by a separate law that too many companies routinely violate.
The assumption behind the $50,000 cash bounty is that smart Americans out there are just as annoyed by robocalls as anyone at the FTC. Why not give ingenious, angry Americans a shot at solving the problem?