An unknown number flashes across the screen of your phone’s caller ID. It’s not an 800 number. In fact, it has a seemingly real area code, from “Bayonne, New Jersey.” Though you don’t know anyone from Bayonne, New Jersey, you decide to pick up.
“CONGRATULATIONS. YOU’VE BEEN PRE-SELEC–“
Annoying, right? The Federal Trade Commission think so, too, and now it’s offering $50,000 to the winner of its new Robocall Challenge, which is soliciting technical solutions to block robocalls on both landlines and smartphones. To help out participants, the FTC said it will provide information from consumer complaints about robocalls from the past four years that detail factors such as the caller’s date and time, the reported caller’s name, and the first seven digits of the caller’s phone number.
Though most robocalls have been illegal since 2009, an FTC report released this week revealed that in 2012, more people than ever had phone numbers listed in the National Do Not Call Registry, at 217 million. Yet the number of them who registered robocall-related complaints also set a new record, with 3.8 million in the past year.
“We think this will be an effective approach in the case of robocalls because the winner of our challenge will become a national hero,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.