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FTC contest: $50k for the winner who develops a way to stop Robocalls

Discussion in 'Computers and Internet Geekland' started by Mousey, Oct 19, 2012.

    Oct 19, 2012
  1. Mousey

    Mousey Ueber Meister Mouse CAG

    Occupation:
    Pencil Pusher
    Location:
    Up$hitCreek
    You must register/login in order to see the link.FTC has offered $50,000 for a technical cure to the robocall plague.
    by Casey Johnston - Oct 18 2012, 6:26pm CDT


     
  2. Oct 19, 2012
  3. weesie

    weesie Ueber Meister

    Occupation:
    retired
    Location:
    Old bag lady with a laptop
    Boy!! THAT would be nice!!! We have stopped answering the phone! If it is someone close to us, or even Docs or certain businesses, they have our cell #'s. We like to keep a land line for certain reasons, but, it is becoming a headache!
     
  4. Oct 19, 2012
  5. vinylweatherman

    vinylweatherman You type well loads CAG MM

    Occupation:
    STILL At Leisure
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    It's been done already. A box consumers can buy for around £100 operates as a rule based filter for all incoming calls. The telecoms providers should have done more, and COULD do more than the basic offerings they have as add-ons to the service. Maybe they make so much money from carrying the robo calls that they are reluctant to put too much effort into it. There is much data available to the telecoms companies that they block from being received at the consumer's kit, and this limits what consumer fitted solutions could achieve.

    The FTC can make quite an advance by passing a law that prevents the carriers from withholding associated data from the consumers' kit. CLI can be withheld by the caller, but the carrier still receives this data. It is blocked on privacy grounds, and replaced by a "withheld number" code, which limits the ability of rule based systems to tell the difference between a robo call with withheld number, or a family member using the service as a privacy measure.

    The current option is to block all withheld numbers, which is a blunt instrument that could block legitimate calls. Spoofed caller ID is due to this blunt instrument being used by consumers to block marketing calls. To implement, the consumer would have to ask all callers to let their caller ID through, and this way they could generate a whitelist of numbers that will always be put through. The problem is that this would require the cooperation of callers, and robo marketers could discover some common numbers that everybody lets through, and uses them for spoofed caller ID.

    I expect the solution would be software based, with the consumer buying a microcomputer powered "black box" that sits between the outlet and their phone. The software would be constantly updated as robo callers find ways around the system. It could have a "simple mode" for those who want to just plug it in and let it take care of itself, or an "advanced mode" for users who want to develop their own rules and filters.

    This has already been done, the "Truecall" costs around £100 and does much of this. It requires Caller ID be passed by the carrier to the receiving equipment, and the cooperation of callers. It has both whitelists and blacklists, and calls can be routed to message, put through with a specific ring tone, or simply blocked. If a call gets through that the user didn't want, they can add the caller to the blacklist so that all future calls will be blocked.

    It seems similar to spam filters for email.

    The solution is not perfect, and never can be, just like email, Windows, or any other software based system.

    Part of the solution lies in creating more robust international standards for carriers so that better data reaches the recipient, allowing such filtering kit to work better. Carriers could even be fined for not doing enough to prevent the use of their networks for carrying illegal calls.

    The UK has a less draconian law, but even that is freely flouted simply by setting up the operation offshore. Oddly enough the US has been a source of illegal marketing calls to the UK, often the "boiler room" investment scams, although they seem to be coming out of Spain now, rather than the US.


    $50,000 may only be "small change" to whoever wins the contest, as their prize winning system would gain considerable kudos just for being the winning entry, and they could make far more by selling it.

    I am surprised the "Truecall" system has not done better, it seems to have been discontinued by many outlets, and is virtually impossible to get hold of in any major outlet. I have been thinking of buying one due to a sharp increase in robocalls coming about because of many government schemes, such as insulation grants, and PPI refunds. I hardly ever get calls from window and kitchen sellers any more:confused:
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. Apr 3, 2013
  7. Mousey

    Mousey Ueber Meister Mouse CAG

    Occupation:
    Pencil Pusher
    Location:
    Up$hitCreek
    Update! And the winner is.....

    No more robocalls: New tech automatically hangs up on robots
    You must register/login in order to see the link.
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. Apr 3, 2013
  9. vinylweatherman

    vinylweatherman You type well loads CAG MM

    Occupation:
    STILL At Leisure
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    Users will have to pay "a small monthly fee", so it may prove more expensive than having to buy and maintain their own hardware device.

    The Truecall device does all this and more, and was invented years ago. It may cost around £100, but it incurs no monthy fee, and users have as much flexibility as they want. It can be configured to deal with most types of nuisance calls, not just robocalls.

    The winning systems may appeal because of their convenience, the user signs up and has to do nothing themselves, but they are at the mercy of the implementation chosen by the provider, and may not be able to tune the system to kill ALL robocalls, or other types of nuisance call.

    The system also relies on a caller ID being supplied. This won't work where this is blocked by the caller, as all the system gets is "unknown caller", which makes it hard to run it's "unsure call" algorithm to look for calling patterns that seek to identify incoming robocalls as opposed to a set of unconnected calls where the caller has withheld their caller ID.

    What happens when a whitelisted number has it's caller ID spoofed by an illegal robocaller, can it slip through, or can the system quickly and reliably catch on and prevent collateral damage to the whitelisted number when it is used legitimately.

    This solution may not work outside of the US market, and this could limit the capacity of a private company to sell it worldwide. I am sure the Brits would love such a system too, but it would not appear to be compatible with the UK networks.

    In my experience, phone providers use even the simplest systems as cash cows, charging as much as £5 purely to have the Caller ID forwarded to the customer's phone, let alone any filtering and diversion services. This makes a hardware solution a winner over the longer term, as apart from any charges for having caller ID forwarded to the customer phone, no other service is taken from the provider. Any such hardware could easily be upgraded to include internet connectivity, and thus be able to access crowd based blacklists and whitelists, rather than the user having to maintain their own.

    These moves are going to make life tough for companies though, as they squealed years ago when BT introduced the ability for customers to blanket block all calls that did not provide their caller ID. It effectively made it impossible for any business to get through because they did not use "real" numbers as calls came from behind a switchboard, and thus could not forward a caller ID. They solved this problem, but then the scammers used that solution in order to get their own calls past the BT service, which is now almost worthless as protection against "phone spam".

    I expect scammers are already looking for weaknesses in the two winning systems they are likely to face in the near future.

    The problem is all down to the greedy companies that bombarded consumers mercilessly over the years to the point that they demanded robust action from the authorities. One unwanted call may be tolerated, ended with a polite "no thanks", but some companies just don't get the message, they will call every hour of the day no matter how often they are told "no thanks", and in the end the customer realises that being polite is not the solution.

    In the absence of a formal solution, some informal solutions have been implemented by some, and suggested to others. A few of these have been potentially dangerous, such as the letting off of a loud whistle or air horn in response to a company that keeps calling even when asked not to. The issue is that it is the hapless employee, not the real villain, that ends up in A&E with no eardrum.
     
  10. Apr 3, 2013
  11. dunover

    dunover Unofficial T&C's Editor Staff Member CAG PABnononaccred PABnonaccred PABinit mm3 webmeister

    Occupation:
    International Money Launderer
    Location:
    the bus shelter, opposite GCHQ Benhall
    What's wrong with the good old 2 quid-a-month method of blocking services? Block all callers bar those on your approved list/withheld nos./anonymous nos.? You know any callers will be kosher then.
     
  12. Apr 3, 2013
  13. dionysus

    dionysus can turn wine into water CAG MM

    Occupation:
    n/a
    Location:
    I'm a Canucklehead
    I don't see, for me, any point in having a landline these days; just my cell.
    I''ve never once gotten a telemarketing call
     
  14. Apr 3, 2013
  15. vinylweatherman

    vinylweatherman You type well loads CAG MM

    Occupation:
    STILL At Leisure
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    Legitimate marketing companies hate such blanket methods as it blocks ALL such calls, not just the scammers. From a user's point of view, a whitelist service may be better than a blacklist, as a few chosen callers are allowed, rather than having to block the ones you don't want after the fact.

    Even 2 quid a month is a cheek when this is a basic service, and users have to do all the legwork in setting up their own whitelists. We already pay £15 quid before we have even picked up the damn phone each month, and callers benefit from us having a phone just as much as we do. If anything, businesses have the most to gain by us having phones, as they can badger us constantly at a time of their chosen inconvenience, rather than them having to send us a letter that we might get around to reading if we have the time, or might just get binned if it looks like marketing. We could always find a phone box outside the shops if we felt we really had to call them back.

    One big problem with the current services is the very limited size of any blacklist or whitelist. With mine, we can set a blacklist of up to 10 numbers, but given how these callers seem to have a different (often spoofed) caller ID every time, 10 numbers would last about a week, and then no more could be blocked. A whitelist has similar problems. Maybe enough room for family and selected close friends, but what about whitelisting our bank, work, etc. List places would run out, and the rest would end up getting blocked.

    The rare, but very important, call would also be blocked, such as a child in trouble trying to phone home from whatever phone they had to hand.

    With the withheld and anonymous numbers, you cannot differentiate between the calls you want and the ones you don't, so the only option is to accept them all and leave the door wide open to the phone spammers, or block the lot, shutting the door to many legitimate callers.

    The basic service is now free with many providers, but it only blocks withheld and anonymous numbers, and you are supposed to tell friends and family that they can only get through by allowing their caller ID through when they call.

    The same thing can be done with your own hardware, or even a basic PC running virtual PABX, and all without having to pay your provider a monthly fee, nor being limited to 10 listings for whitelist, blacklist, etc.

    We have smart mobile phones capable of much more, so why not similarly smart landlines?
     
  16. Apr 3, 2013
  17. dunover

    dunover Unofficial T&C's Editor Staff Member CAG PABnononaccred PABnonaccred PABinit mm3 webmeister

    Occupation:
    International Money Launderer
    Location:
    the bus shelter, opposite GCHQ Benhall
    I had to laugh Saturday morning. I'm on the TPS list so don't get nuisance calls usually, apart from casinos occasionally who have deliberately taken liberties with my chosen methods of contact which exclude SMS and phone, and are restricted to email...

    10am. and a I got a call (obviously via a number generator the bots use).

    I pick up and some barely intelligible Indian woman (yes Nifty, Seig Heil Seig Heil :rolleyes: ) proceeds to claim she's calling from 'windows security'. She asked me if I had my PC on, and having ten minutes spare I thought I'd have some fun. (This is an age-old scam from India whereby they tell you instructions which will access your Windows error-logs, which we all have btw and then try to sell you 'software' to remove them. At best it does nothing, at worst it'll hijack your PC.)

    I kept stringing the twit along, tapping my keys to make it sound like I was following the instructions. I then played some mp3 files by Motorhead, and started exaggerating dismay. 'My computer's gone mad, I've got funny music playing now, what have you done??'
    She started trying to make something up to help her sales pitch, so I started asking her random questions. 'Do you like Van Halen?' 'When you make coffee, do you use instant or percolated?' 'How often do you mow the lawn in India?'

    Click....dialling tone:D
     
    1 person likes this.
  18. Apr 3, 2013
  19. LaHutti

    LaHutti Sr. ÜberUnter Ass. Man. webby PABnonaccred PABaccred

    Occupation:
    .
    Location:
    East and West
    I bought a new sim card for my cellphone, new number, I have never used it, it has never been published anywhere, and guess what ?
    I get them, and there is only ONE way these people have been able to get my number. Telus sold it to them ... that's gotta be a fact.

     
    1 person likes this.
  20. Apr 3, 2013
  21. vinylweatherman

    vinylweatherman You type well loads CAG MM

    Occupation:
    STILL At Leisure
    Location:
    United Kingdom

    Now big business is going to pay the price. They are already squealing that current measures are making it virtually impossible to "make a living" as besieged phone customers erect ever tougher security on who gets through. They squealed about the TPS blacklist, they squealed about BT privacy (which blanket blocks everything that doesn't present a caller ID), they are going to holler from the rooftops if whitelist only based access becomes widespread. They will be forced to pre register their numbers with every consumer they want to contact, and then hope that the consumer opts in by adding said number to their whitelist. Big business who called via robots will increasingly find their calls answered by robots, who's purpose is to shield human customers from the barrage of unwanted calls. It will cost more to phone endless voicemail bots than they gain from the odd human they get through to and manage to sign up to whatever they are offering.

    An old tip was to rent your own 0870 number and only give this out when asked to fill in phone numbers on forms. This meant that everytime you got a nuisance call, you got paid for taking it, the same scam businesses have been running for years on those helplines that always seem to be busy and put you on hold for an eternity. If it became too much, you just ditched that 0870 number and got another, and severed any contact with anyone who had the old one. You gave family and friends your true number, and they could always get through, and cheaply.

    OFCOM killed the scam a few years ago, but there is still a way, and some scammers may even fall for it, even though it is more obvious. Get an 0871 number, and set it to the highest rate. Not quite so effective as they are more tightly regulated than the old 0870, but I can't see a scammer complaining to PhonePayPlus that you ripped them off;)

    Best of all, get an 0906, sign up to every Virtual shithole you can find, and wait for the money to roll in:D
     
    1 person likes this.
  22. Apr 3, 2013
  23. dunover

    dunover Unofficial T&C's Editor Staff Member CAG PABnononaccred PABnonaccred PABinit mm3 webmeister

    Occupation:
    International Money Launderer
    Location:
    the bus shelter, opposite GCHQ Benhall
    No, your telephone company didn't sell it or provide it to them. There are 'number trawling' systems out there. They simply dial through all possible combinations for an area (say your area code is 01234 and local numbers start with 5 or 7 in that area, the trawler will dial all combinations except ones it has data for that already exist. It will cross off dead numbers and log those which have a ringtone. This means any number, whether ex-directory or not, can be added to a call list.
     
  24. Apr 4, 2013
  25. dionysus

    dionysus can turn wine into water CAG MM

    Occupation:
    n/a
    Location:
    I'm a Canucklehead
    ya, the bf got a call; he was out, and I intercepted it; it was spam
    so I looked for the number online, and there was a whole thread dedicated to it..all from my region...so basically, the system just called every number in the series that could be local
     
  26. Apr 4, 2013
  27. LaHutti

    LaHutti Sr. ÜberUnter Ass. Man. webby PABnonaccred PABaccred

    Occupation:
    .
    Location:
    East and West
    Well whatever way they do it, it sucks!
    We get these friggin' calls almost every day, both on the landline, and on cellphone. I don't even bother to check who's calling any more. I pretty much just ignore the phones ;)

     
  28. Apr 4, 2013
  29. dionysus

    dionysus can turn wine into water CAG MM

    Occupation:
    n/a
    Location:
    I'm a Canucklehead
    get an internet phone, rings same way, it's free
     

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