Friday, September 02, 2016

Nomorobo? Bring it on.

It was bad enough that 99.99% of my landline calls are either spam or someone looking for a donation to a political campaign. For the last several months, I’ve been getting spammed on my mobile. Day-umm!

Unless you’re on my contact list, or a number I otherwise recognize, or maybe – just maybe – if you’re in my area code, I’ll pick up. But mostly I ignore those pesky calls. Sometimes, I’ll google the number to see if I can find out what they’re about. But mostly I ignore.

I don’t care if I “won” a free cruise. Not going.

I don’t believe that there’s a problem on my PC that Microsoft has authorized a contact center in India to fix. Not buying.

The IRS is really going to take legal action against me. Not biting.

And how many times do I have to hang up on you before you get that I don’t want to change my electricity provider.

The Do Not Call registry worked for a while with these scam artists, but scam artists have wiggled their way around the roadblocks. A pox on their call centers!

HELP may be on the way:

Back in 2013, Nomorobo won an FTC challenge to find a way to block all those unwanted, annoying, and – if they catch you in weak moment – potentially hazardous to your financial health calls. They’re beta-ing a “wireless robocall catcher.” For $4.99 a month, you can unspam your mobile. (Landline is free.) I signed up to get on the waiting list for the beta of their Android app. They’re already working with Time Warner, and claim to have blocked over 131M robocalls. Get moving with Verizon, please.

Primus, a Canadian outfit, also has blocking technology that:

…intercepts calls before the customer’s phone rings, then identifies the caller and gives the customer a choice to accept or reject or send to voice-mail. It also asks callers to dial a digit -- something robocallers can’t do -- and identify themselves, and has intercepted 80 million calls. (Source: Bloomberg)

Apple has an SDK for iOS developers; Google has something out there for Nexus and Android One devices.

“It’s clear that the technology is out there to address the robocall problem,” said Maureen Mahoney, a public policy fellow at Consumers Union, which has collected more than 630,000 signatures on a petition to stop robocalls. “Consumers have had enough.”

(Okay. This quote doesn’t shed particular light for purposes of my post. I included it solely because the person quoted is named Maureen. I clicked through on the link, and I have to say she appears to be one of the youngest Maureens in existence, my first name having gone the way of Bertha, Gertrude, and Ethel, I’m afraid. Ah, but when I was a girl-een, me name was all the rage in my little corner of the world.)

Meanwhile, phone hardware and software makers – with a push from the FCC – are joining forces with carriers to try to resolve this aggravating problem. There’s even a Robocall Strike Force. I like the sound of that, mostly because my mental image is a bunch of Navy Seals parachuting into these robocall outfits and knocking them out. No, I don’t want the workers killed, but I wouldn’t mind seeing them hog-tied with those plastic zip ties before being carted off to a rehabilitation center.

The Strike Force has:

…pledged to develop an action plan by Oct. 19 that includes driving adoption of call-blocking technologies and standards. The group also will look at how to reduce “spoofing” -- when an overseas call center pretends to be a U.S.-based caller by routing through multiple carriers.

The group will be looking at the problem systemically, not piecemeal, solving it from the perspective of the “entire ecosystem.” (One of my favorite marketing words, by the way: ecosystem.)

“One thing we’d really like to see is the carriers offering tools to consumers as soon as possible,” said Mahoney at Consumers Union. “We are going to keep pushing the phone companies and the task force to see that that will happen.”

You go, girl. That’s what we want, too.

Just say No Mo Robocalls! Just say Moe!

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