Average Joe Develops Way to Block Robocalls as Major Phone Companies Continue to Struggle With Spammers

By: | January 30th, 2015

Robocalls might be one of the single most annoying things in the world, especially when they continuously hit you up at work and break your concentration.

Aaron Foss figured out how to block these spammers while still allowing the emergency alert service and other legitimate calls to come in, an achievement that won him $25,000 in cash from the Federal Trade Commission.

Essentially, Foss launched a service called Nomorobo, capable of re-routing calls and checking the numbers against a whitelist of “real calls” and blacklist of “spam calls” before either accepting or blocking each individual call.

After realizing how effective his innovative idea was at blocking spammers, Foss decided to turn Nomorobo into a business, and in 2014, his service was responsible for blocking 15.1 million robocalls.

Foss utilizes cloud computing services, specifically Amazon Web Services and Twilio, in order to distribute his free product which should take off as long as major phone companies continue to avoid investing in a similar service/technology.

Unfortunately for carriers, the issue is more complicated than one might think, with things like privacy concerns and legal obligations to complete phone calls no matter where they come from coming into play.

The CTIA, the trade group that represents the nation’s wireless carriers, recently wrote the FCC explaining exactly why a service like Foss’s is not sustainable for big phone companies.

“Even assuming an accurate database of blacklisted and whitelisted numbers can be compiled and maintained, the ease with which modern equipment and software can allow a caller to spoof a caller ID would present a significant challenge,” the group says. “Moreover, the database for any blacklist would be very large and continually growing, such that maintaining and operating the database would be a massive undertaking.”

Today, Americans are getting more robocalls then ever, an increasingly frustrating problem that needs to be addressed.

Marguerite Sweeney, an Indiana deputy attorney general, says, “It’s something that needs to be clarified. Perhaps when the FCC visited this subject in the past, it was in another context.”

Early next month, the FCC will determine whether or not carriers can block spammers outright. However, it is highly unlikely robocalls will ever truly disappear because of advanced phone-number-spoofing technology and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology.

Incredibly, a whopping 75% of people listened to 19 seconds or more to robocalls last year alone, meaning they are still very effective, and spammers have shown no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Marshall Smith

Technology, engineering, and design enthusiast.

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