The Federal Trade Commission has declared a war on robocalls. The prerecorded nuisance calls that routinely interrupt dinner across America have been illegal since 2009, but they're still an irritating part of daily life.
Thanks to spoofing technology that allows violators to disguise their identities, robocalls have begun to tick up after leveling off a few years ago. Americans are now bombarded with 200,000 robocalls a month.
Complaints are up, but enforcement remains hit or miss because of the violators' ability to generate fake caller ID. The FTC is simply out-matched technologically to put a dent in the volume of calls. That's why the agency has turned to the public for help in dealing with the dinnertime scourges.
Through Jan. 17, 2013, the FTC is offering $50,000 to whoever comes up with the best technical solution to the robocall problem. The winner will be notified in April.
Meanwhile, those who want to stop live telemarketing calls to their homes can do so by registering home and cell phone numbers with the federal Do Not Call list. This list does not apply to robocalls because they are covered under a separate law that too many companies are only too happy to violate.
The assumption behind the $50,000 cash bounty is that there are some pretty smart people out there who are just as annoyed by robocalls as anyone at the FTC. Why not give ingenious, but angry Americans a shot at solving the problem?