FTC Offers $50K Prize To Help Stop 'Robocalls'

By: Caroline Vandergriff Email
By: Caroline Vandergriff Email

Are you annoyed by all those automated telemarketing calls? Now is your chance to do something about them.

The Federal Trade Commission is looking for tech-savvy people to come up with a way to block the harassing calls. The FTC is offering a $50,000 prize for the best solution to stop illegal commercial "robocalls."

That's good news for the tens of thousands of people across the U.S. who are fed up with the unwanted calls.

Criselle Mann has been running a daycare from her home in Holt for almost four years. She says she's been getting annoying telemarketing calls for just as long.

"Very frustrating because it's usually when I'm busy," said Mann. "Like I've got three or four children needing my care, possibly even six depending on the day, and it's like well I better grab the phone in case it's family with some problem."

Mann says the calls keep coming, even though all her phone numbers have been put on the do not call list.

"They just don't stop," Mann said. "They're very persistent in ringing and ringing."

The typical call she says she gets is a generic, pre-recorded pitch offering lower interest rates. The FTC says robocalls like that are illegal, and the vast majority are scams.

"If it's a legitimate call coming through about something important, then I understand it," Mann said. "But when they're these harassing calls you've asked a number of times to be stopped, it's very frustrating when they don't."

The FTC says the robocalls are cheap and hard to trace. That's why it's reaching out to the public for a solution to stop the unwanted calls - a solution Mann eagerly looks forward to.

"Going to just keep hanging up on them I guess, and hope that eventually it does stop or the law changes," Mann said. "That whatever's allowing them to do it - prevents them from doing it."

The FTC "Robocall Challenge" opens to the public on Oct. 25th and will close on Jan. 17th, 2013. The winner will be announced next April.

The FTC says the successful solution to stop the robocalls must work, be easy to use, and easy to implement in today's market. Visit www.ftc.gov for more information.

In the meantime, to avoid those annoying calls definitely put your phone number of the do not call list, even though that won't stop all the calls. If you still get telemarketer pitches once you're on the do not call list, you can submit a complaint to the FTC.

It's important to note there are exceptions to the do not call registry. Charities, surveys, political campaigns, and companies that have a direct business relationship with you can all still call without violating the list.

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