One of the newest entrants in the battle against robocallers goes by the name Nomorobo.com, the brainchild of a Long Island software developer who shared a $50,000 prize from the Federal Trade Commission for the best tech solution to thwart telephone spam.
Existing tech tools are focused on smartphones with applications that let you block known spam callers and do reverse lookups of suspect numbers. Among the free versions are Mr. Number, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based company, for Android phones and CallControl in Bellevue, Wash., for Android and Blackberry phones. Like other smartphone apps, they rely on "crowd-sourced" lists of spam phone numbers, which are reported and shared by fellow users.
And for the first time, Apple's recently released operating system, iOS 7, lets iPhone users block unwanted calls.
Deluged by millions of consumer complaints, the FTC last year turned to the private sector, announcing its Robocall Challenge contest, seeking entrepreneurs such as Aaron Foss to come up with solutions.
Nomorobo relies on consumers enabling a specialty feature in their phone system that's called "Simultaneous Ring," "Locate Me" or other names. Basically, it allows customers to have incoming calls ring on all their phones at the same time, allowing them to pick up wherever it's convenient. Foss piggybacks on that phone feature, using Nomorobo to screen incoming calls.
Nomorobo can work with phone customers of AT&T U-Verse, SureWest, Vonage, Verizon FiOS and East Coast carrier Optimum.
When linked to the user's phone, Nomorobo "answers" the call first, screening it instantly against databases of numbers known to make illegal robocalls, as well as using algorithms that detect whether it's a number-dialing at unusually high volume. For instance, when the same number has made 5,000 calls to different numbers in the past hour, it's a red flag. If a robocall is detected, the call is automatically disconnected, before the consumer's phone even rings. Those numbers go onto a "black list."
Foss said his technology does not detect the content of incoming calls, nor does it block legitimate automated calls, such as from your child's school, an airline with flight schedule changes or an emergency services call.