New Robot Talks Back to Robocallers

Maureen Mahoney
Public Policy Fellow

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

Ever wish you could bother robocallers just as they irritate you?

You may be in luck. Inventor Roger Anderson has just created the Jolly Roger Telephone Company, a tool that can talk back to telemarketers indefinitely, wasting their time and taking up their precious minutes.

How it works: when you receive a robocall, instead of just hanging up, you dial a separate phone number and patch the robot in. The robot uses artificial intelligence (the same technique that many of the most irritating robocallers use) to speak whenever there are pauses in the conversation. Click here for more information.

Of course, this method could backfire. The FTC warns that engaging with telemarketers in any way just lets them know that they have a live customer at the other end. They point out that you may get even more robocalls.

Another option is stopping the robocalls before they reach you with a call-blocking service or box. For example, Consumer Reports volunteer testers rated the free Nomorobo highly. Check out our robocall-blocker review. And click here to tell the phone companies to make sure everyone has access to free tools to block robocalls!

Tell us your thoughts. Is Jolly Roger something you’d be interested in trying?

Update: Consumers Union recommends that consumers closely evaluate what kind of information they’re willing to disclose to prevent robocalls, so review the privacy policy before signing up for any call-blocking app or service.

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One response to “New Robot Talks Back to Robocallers”

  1. hmercshell says:

    As pointed out above, a robo-respondent like Jolly Roger would likely result in yet more robocalls and bandwidth clogging. When the profit motive takes highest priority at the highest levels of policy, including those involved with services (water, garbage, phone, etc.), ‘consumers’ are usually pawns. If those pawns are unhappy with their services, they are pretty much looking at either starting their own services or working through or reforming the current ones. So, think extortion and the rackets for which there’s plenty of history.
    So, get lots of server equipment and start an exclusive network or figure out a method of using current networking that is acceptably immune to unwanted callers and listeners alike. As the latter seems more likely, I’d suggest starting with a call blocker gadget that includes using private caller key codes to help discern caller identity along with whitelist / blacklist methods used in some units. After a call connects, the caller must send a certain tone, either from the phone or some other source, in order to ring through.
    Such gadgets use electronic components and firmware (‘hard wire’ programming at the factory) and software (programmed by the user). I believe that it’s possible to successfully develop such a gadget with public resources and talent, much like the Linux projects or the Consumer’s Union project to effect changes through petition. I also believe there would be major obstruction from those who are determined to maintain the current situation.

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