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The phone rings for thee: Robocallers outpacing moves to stop them

The robocall is a modern problem. Over in the US, 4.4 billion phone calls a month are estimated to be scams. Disappointingly, legislators seem powerless to stop it.

 

 

As Kraftwerk once warned, we are the robots. However, while those robots were good enough to make (barely passable) music, their relatives decide to ring us you and attempt to wring money from you. The Robocall is a modern evil that the apocalyptic neo-futuristic movies of the 1980s warned us about. A storm is indeed coming, a tempest held in the digits of a number you don’t know, and lawmakers are not really sure how to combat it.

According to the Americans, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) believes that the complaints against Robocalls have quadrupled between 2009 and 2017. YouMail (an anti-robocall app) takes it further, surmising that the average ‘murican gets 13.6 robocalls a month — which roughly equates to 4.4 billion nationwide. A month.

YouMail also believes that this time last year, the Robocalls were half in number. So, why the robo-invasion of our privacy? The New York Times believes that robocalls are suddenly cheaper due to the march of technology. Volume is no longer a chore. For instance, a Miami man was recently accused of making 100 million calls in less than 100 days. A supplementary reason might be that it is less illegal to do it. One district court in DC struck down stricter Obama-era robocall rules, easing the pressure on these robocallers.

 

 

Now, an obvious solution to the problem, is that if you don’t pick up, you won’t get scammed, eventually, they’ll go away, right? Remove the food source, and the beast will starve.

Well, no.

According to the Wall Street Journal they don’t really need you to pick up the phone. As it stands, many phone companies will pay minuscule amounts of money to databases that store your caller ID. It’s peanuts, sure, but if you’re making hundreds of millions of calls, bling bling money ain’t a thing.

To counteract this, the FCC has engineered an encryption framework. Called SHAKEN/STIR, it attaches a certificate to each call to make sure the call is legit. All calls are therefore routed through it, the system checks if the caller has a matching encrypted key. If it doesn’t hasta la vista, phone call. The general idea is that these robocallers will not gain access to aforesaid keys. Which is fine, but extremely shortsighted. Crime, as it stands, always outpaces the measures to stop it. Think of the Wild West as an example. To stop being robbed, bankers moved their money behind walls. Robbers introduce dynamite. Bankers introduce the safe. Robbers learn to crack safe. It’s a tit-for-tat battle that will continue in perpetuity.

So, how do you protect yourselves before these robots wreck yourselves? Get yourself a lever action shotgun in the form of a third-party app. While most modern phones come with built-in features for blocking specific phone numbers, apps such as Nomorobo, Hiya Caller ID and Block, RoboKiller, and Truecaller actively block telemarketing calls.

Worth a shot. That, or we need to develop a telephone captcha. Like this:

 

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