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Double the fun: The FTC announces two new robocall contests

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The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, Terminator 2… Don’t you just love a good sequel? The FTC does, too, and that’s why the agency is returning to DEF CON with a new robocall challenge.

Zapping Rachel, our 2014 contest, challenged security experts to build tools that investigators could use to track and minimize illegal robocalls. For 2015, the agency is hosting Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back, a contest that asks tech gurus to create tools people can use to block or forward unwanted robocalls automatically. Forwarded calls will go to a honeypot — a data collection system that researchers and investigators can use to study the calls. We’re offering up to $50,000 in prize money for the best solutions, with $25,000 going to the first place winner.

Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back Logo

The contest has two phases: a qualifying phase and a final phase. Contestants can get started right away on the first phase, which ends June 15, 2015. The top five scorers will move on to the final phase, which ends at DEF CON 23 on August 8, 2015.

The FTC also announced today that, as part of the National Day of Civic Hacking on June 6, 2015, the agency is challenging the tech-savvy public to DetectaRobo. For this challenge, contestants will use call data to develop an algorithm that predicts which calls are likely to be robocalls. Submissions are due June 7, 2015.

DetectaRobo Logo

Each contest has its own website with more information, including rules, criteria, and judges. Visit for the DEF CON challenge and for the National Day of Civic Hacking contest.

These contests are part of the FTC’s larger efforts to combat illegal robocalls, a problem that has grown worse since advances in technology have made it easy for robocallers to send out thousands of calls every minute and to display fake caller ID information.


I could use a robocall blocker for my iPhone! Get several every week.

Here on tht one mind seem to happen every nite be care full with this app. People use it to direct calls as a block. Home finder. Com you don't even know ur being directed to the site..

I can tell if it is a computer generated call. There is a period of silence when you pick up the phone and say "hello". If no one responds for a second or two, I hang up.

Thanks to share informative post..........

If my ISP can provide protection from spammers and only allow emails from people in my contact list. How come cell phone service providers can't do the same for my phone; Only allow calls from the people in my contact list if I desire it?

Please help me stop scam calls by devising a phone that does this:
(1) Allows me to enter my personal list of phone numbers, which commonly call me, so only these select numbers ring straight through to me. (2) For any phone number not on my list, make the person calling enter a number (of my choosing) to prove they are a real person. (3) Finally, provide legitimate emergency callers with a special signal that tells my phone to ring them straight through.

Kris, if you ever market that special phone, I want to buy one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Sounds like a fantastic product!!!!

I am sick of Rachel and her buddy I get two to three call a day from area codes I don't know and I do not answer. My rights are being violated and after years of this abuse I have decided to terminate my cell phone. I can't get any protection from the do no call registry. I would offer my phone number to the FTC as a decoy ss I seem to get many calls per day. I have file numerous complaints and heard nothing.

FTC should be requiring all landline and cellphone providers to report customers who are robocalling on their service. It's the providers who are making money off these nuisance callers and they should be penalized for allowing their decent customers to be harassed and/or scammed by the robocallers. Deregulation of telecommunications in the U.S. has failed to serve the public. Comcast, Verizon, et al. should have to compete with well-regulated public telecommunications utilities.

I think you are on to something, Connor! Let's all write our members of Congress and try to get this law enacted!

I received calls on a daily basis at tha same time every day,So I figured it was a robocall, I found an old whistle and decided that I would try blowing it as loud as I could when I saw that number come up on my I.D.. worked for I haven't received anymore calls from that # in approx 2 wks.

Believe the answer is to have a phone carrier provided, forwarding agent. The caller is expected to enter a series of randomized numbers, should they do this successfully, they are forwarded to the phone number they dialed; otherwise, the caller is disconnected.

I get so many of them calls we can't use our house phone. I was blocking the numbers but it got to be so many a day I couldn't keep up the numbers just kept changing and they steal people's numbers. So it came to the point where I just blocked everyone from calling. I tried to make it so just family can call but it's a pain. Two weeks ago I had to unblock the phone so the cable guy could call before he came the calls was unreal. I have had the phone blocked for months and they just keep calling still and there's a message saying that I am not taking any calls at this time. As soon as the cable guy left I blocked the phone again. We are forced to use our cell phones good thing for family account. I just want the calls to stop. now I am getting numbers I don't know on my cell

Why do these calls all come at suppertime? I too, have learned what to do. Like the person said, if they do not say hello when you pickup the receiver, hang up.
I have my phone repeat the number that is calling me. If I do not know the number, I do not answer the phone. Usually, they do not leave a message either.

Started getting calls with area codes from all over the US about 1 1/2 months ago. Usually, same time of day, early evening but other times as well. Just heard today that Landline carriers are to provide blocks for consumers soon because of new law. No relief for cell users apparently. Verizon sent me to FTC site even though I told them I was on DNC list. I don't think the Verizon Rep knew what a Robocall was as he had to put me on hold for several minutes.

Web sites frequently require you to enter a verification code when submitting a form. Leave a post on this blog and you will see an example. I would like to see phone services offer a verbal version: when someone calls my number, they would be asked a question like "what is six divided by two" and the caller must correctly answer the question before being connected to my phone.

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