Robocalls are annoying, and they seemingly can’t be stopped, no matter how many do-not-call lists you join, no matter how polite you are. Part of this is the fact that, even though telemarketers can’t legally call your cell phone, con artists don’t care about the law. So, when Rachel or Kelly or Christie from Card Services comes along, there’s a new weapon: Nomorobo.
Fighting Robots With Robots
The brainchild of Aaron Foss, and the winner of the FTC’s Robocall Challenge, Nomorobo essentially puts a robotic doorman between your phone and phone numbers trying to reach you by using simultaneous ringing. If your friends are calling, no problem, they go right through. Anybody else, though, has to make with the answers.
First, Nomorobo compares the call to an ever-growing and changing blacklist. If the number is on the blacklist, Nomorobo blocks the call and the scammers can go cry about it. If the number is showing suspicious activity, like dialing numbers sequentially, or making a call every thirty seconds, Nomorobo swings into action and answers the robocall with a robovoice.
Essentially, it becomes a Captcha system; you’re asked to enter in some numbers to prove you’re a real person, and, if you can do that, your call gets put through. If you can’t, well, tough noogies.
Not Perfect, However
The only drawback is that the service requires simultaneous ringing, which you can’t necessarily get depending on your provider. It’s easy enough with VoIP or landlines, but cellular connections may or may not have the service depending on which one you have.
That said, though, this is probably, for now, the most effective tool to stop robocalls, and it’s hard to see why Nomorobo, which is free for consumers and being sold to businesses, won’t have its system bought and installed by cellular providers. After all, they’d rather you burn your minutes talking to somebody you actually want to listen to.
Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.