A contest to combat robocalls

Zapping Rachel from Cardholder Services“Rachel from Cardholder Services” is one of the most notorious — and most annoying — robocallers ever. Advances in technology have made it cheap and easy for Rachel and her buddies to send out thousands of calls every minute — and to spoof caller ID information, hiding their true location and identity. It’s the perfect environment for telephone spam.

Because technology is the crux of the problem, the FTC is tapping one of the world’s largest hacking conferences for some high-caliber technical support. The FTC is sponsoring a contest at DEF CON 22 in Las Vegas, Aug. 7-10, to inspire innovative tech solutions in the fight against illegal robocalls.

Zapping Rachel challenges the tech community to develop robust, cutting-edge robocall honeypots (information systems designed to attract robocallers) that can help researchers and investigators understand and minimize illegal calls. The contest is divided into three phases:

  1. Create: Build a robocall honeypot by Friday, 8/8, at noon PDT
  2. Attack:  Identify a honeypot’s security vulnerabilities by Saturday, 8/9, at noon PDT
  3. Detect: Analyze data from an existing robocall honeypot by Saturday, 8/9, at 7 pm PDT

For more details about the contest — and to review contest FAQs — visit ftc.gov/ZapRachel.

Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

Comments

Could not happen to a better honeypot!!!

Get Rid of them Robocalls!!!

please find a solution. They now even use my own phone ID for incoming calls -- or another local number that is no longer in service. This is very annoying, multiple times a day.

I have the same thing... plus I have credit card companies calling searching for people.. some with my last name.. others just evidently random searches.. Very annoying... And yes, something should be done about spoofing... Why say spoofing is against the law if nothing is going to be done about it....

Yes, I just got a Rachel call with my phone number as the ID, and I have gotten at least 3 calls per week from this with various numbers including local land lines that are no longer in service and the old user's name is still on the id!! We are a small town of 3500 people and you think it's someone local and pick up!

Just received a call from my own number - how??? what??? I answered & it was Rachel of cardholder services!!! These imbeciles never give up!!! I always block their numbers but I can't block my own phone number!!! urgh!!! This is an extremely infuriating invasion of our privacy so when is something going to be done about it??? Why should these scum bags be allowed to get away with it????

I'm with you. I've been harassed on all my phone numbers. DoNotCall does not work. FCC is a weak piece of government. May be we should defund the FCC if they can't even stop Rachael from Cardholder Services.

Why are we funding this branch of government if they can't do their job?

You do realize this is the FTC not the FCC, don't you? Check this website for the actions the FTC is taking to stop these calls. They aren't relying on Do Not Call which is for the small offenders.

Just got a call from Rachel using my home phone on the caller ID. How do they do that? Sick of it. Multiple times a day. Where is the NSA?

One of the easiest things -- and it would seem to be common sense -- is to force the phone companies to disable Caller ID spoofing. That's one of the major problems, and getting rid of spoofing would solve a lot of the issues.

I get robocalls all tne time. I wonder if having an answering machine encourages robocalls - because upon reaching my answering machine identifies my number as a legitimate number. That seems to me to be a "honeypot" - the answering machine "attracts" the robocalls.

Fantastic! I am so sick of this call! The number they use is a fax number! Cannot even call them back.

Robo calls from entities who don't have a business relationship to the person or number called, are an invasion of privacy and should be treated as such. Consumers shouldn't have to screen calls made to a phone number that WE pay to use.

Thank you from the community of telephone users!
Rachael and all of the others who support and implement these calls are the biggest contributors to telephone rage. I cannot tell you how distressing it is to get home and have 7 messages and ALL of them be from those illegally calling me. I have been on the DoNotCall list for several years, but the problem has become worse with each passing year!

What is even more distressing is that some of these calls now come from Healthcare related organizations. This says to me that they are not as interested in the customer as they are in getting ANYONE to buy their product!

Have at it, This will be the greatest public service you have ever done!

THIS HAS TO BE THE BEST ONE YOU HAVE EVER HAD! .

Great! need help fast

SCAMMSS stated in Chico 5 years ago when MENTAL DISABLED IN wheelchair started to have MEETINGS in a Senior complex till I became a VICTIM since I notice sort of GANG activities' , noises from those mental and one by one they got in this WALKER COMMON started collecting cans and walked till Safeway parking lot as early as 5 am. then MY PG &E went up to $50 plus /month I noticed if I dial Chico police apt 45 coupled argued and everyone heard the are having problems pretending doing in the garden so I UNPLUGGED the phone and I noticed WEN(man) walking in and out and towards my apt, pretending helping the acting manager ALL of us does not like these manager. SO THESE WHEELCHAIRS ARE GROUPOING MEETING FROM 5PM TILL 10PM and they are now grouping in apartment 38 every afternoon like a GANG related. and the master KEY got to have a copy to these people and HUD won't believed on us
So from internet to ph. line these apartment 54 $ 45 has all the master key and they OPRN the main switch in break room.
These are CRIMINAL act and we loose all Business in US and jobs.

I'm not sure what this means.

Suuuure you don't. Or is it you're GANG RELATED your own self? Where were you from 5PM to 10PM anyway? Maybe PG&E? Hmmm?

I have already registered 72 hours ago and keep getting the calls. How do I stop the calls?

It says that it takes 31 days to be removed from telemarketer lists.

These people should be hunted down, tried as the criminals that they are and let us who have been so bothered by the calls, serve on the jury.-

This problem should be attacked at the source, not the end station. The phone carriers know the originating phone numbers. No matter what spoofed Caller ID number is attached to the robocall by the telemarketer, the phone carriers accept these calls onto the public switched telephone network from the phone numbers leased from the phone carriers by the telemarketers or their agents.

i agree!! i believe the telecommunications providers (of phone service) are capable of fixing their spoofable laughable broken "caller i.d." service, but as long as we the gullible consumers keep paying for it as is, they'll never fix it........i mean, really, why do we pay them to provide info like "1-626-123-4567" for the caller's number, it is obviously an invalid number

My sentiments exactly. This needs to be stopped at the source. Telecommunications companies who allow these spoofed number calls to come through to millions of phone numbers who are on the "do not call" registry. I can't imagine that the long arm of the federal government is incapable of tracking down "Racheal," et. al and taking care of this problem in short order. Between my home and cell phones, I get at least 6-10 calls every single day, and it's making me crazy.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I know we don't have an answer yet, but thanks for being proactive and helping find a solution! I don't want to give in and change my number. Let's find a solution and end this nonsense.

Latest dirty trick. When you ask them to stop calling, they give you a phone number they say you can call to be removed from their calling list. It turns out the number belongs to a guy who has nothing to do with this outfit and they are just harassing him.

Ouch. That is dirty. I just got rachel from card holder services a few minutes ago... a robocall. I don't have any credit cards.

I just added my home land-line to the Do Not Call list over a week ago.

I have been harassed for approx. 1 & 1/2 years. I have just hung up many times, pressed #1 & asked them not to call and they hang up in my face every time before I could say but a couple of words. They know people are irritated. After that the calls become deliberate harassment.These calls invade our privacy and make us feel violated especially after they go on sooo long for some of us.
PLEASE help us. This is so wrong and criminal especially for those of us that are elderly or sickly.

i complain that the numbers that appear in my caller id when i get one of these robocalls or other obvious scam calls lead to disconnected numbers,,,,,it could be worse, what if one of these fraudsters decide that they're going to send out MY phone number as the number they're calling from......oh the horror!

While reading all of the other comments,they repeat how I feel over and over. I, too, have been harassed for 1&1/2 to 2 years. IT IS NOT JUST RAChel,there is Carmen, bridgette,& sometimes no name, just card service.
Someone mentioned that maybe the calls bother those of us who have message machines??
I have also thought of changing my number but have had it for so many years,plus,my phone co.said after some people have changed their number the calls continue -what a joke on us. IT HAS BECOME PURE HARASSMENT AFTER YOU ASK THEM NOT TO CALL.

HELP US PLEASE. it has been going on for almost 2 years.
I was told if you change your number they still call.

I CANNOT MAKE CLEAR OF SOME OF THE SECURITY LETTERS!!!
WHY ARE THEY WRITTEN so WEIRD THAT I.CANNOT MAKE SOME OF THEM OUT

I tracked down a couple of these calls by pressing *69
And cost $1.50 every time. Two of these calls came from a local elderly lady's home#. They spoofed her# of course. Another one they spoofed came from my health care provider.
We have such brillant humans in this country surely they can outwit these criminals. Get someone like Bill Gates involved,please.
We need help out here especially for those of us
up in age and have health issues.

Please update us on the contest results. Do you have a phone number or physical location for us?

We'll provide an update with the contest results very soon -- in a new blog post. If you want to get all the lastest news and tips from the FTC, be sure to sign up for our email updates.

Thank God someone is really starting to fight back against these "low-life bottom feeders". I'm so sick of their calls I'm forced to disconnect my phones to get a good nights sleep ( I work nights). Pushing "3" is no help, pushing "1" and asking to be put on their "Do not call list" is no help either. Although I have no credit problems, they just keep calling. Please.. Make them stop.

They're still calling three times a day. Why hasn't the FBI deployed SWAT teams to shoot them?

Do these people really make any money doing this? They are like religious groups coming to the door to convert you. Certainly, nobody says to themselves "these people have annoyed the crap out of me, I think I will sign up and ask for more"

They make the money. If you ever did telemarketing, you'd understand why. In West Virginia, there's this town called Triadelphia. Your elementary school had more people in it than this town does but it does have one of the largest call centers (DialAmerica or something) for credit cards and phone services in the country. Hundereds of people drive in from all over the county several times a day to work a five hour shift there. All you do during your shift is wait for a person to get on the line and try to lead them through a credit application or get them to buy phone services (like caller ID!) A couple times in every shift, there's somebody who's old or doesn't speak the english or whatever who thinks they're supposed to do what you're telling them to do.

The Cardholder Services/now spoofers have been calling me since 2008. When I'm in the mood, I like to press #3, and when a rep gets on the phone I scream as loud as I can into the phone. It makes me feel much better! An air horn might be effective as well.

I do the same thing. The problem is when you do that they know they have a good number and the calls keep coming. I got rid of my home phone. Also got a new cell phone. Suddenly I'm getting these calls on my cell phone. You think maybe the cell phone provider has given out my number? Hummmmm!

There is a way to stop them!! And, it's so EASY!! I have called my senators and representatives. We need a law that requires telecom companies to display an actual business name and phone number for commercial accounts. This should be on the telecom server and businesses should not be allowed to change the caller ID displayed by their numbers.
This would allow us to report abusers to the FCC. A few big fines and criminal prosecutions would get rid of these slime molds.
Please call your senators!!!!

Spoofing is against the law... the law simply isn't enforced. The police departments have the equipment to trace the real phone numbers ... but they won't bother with it.... It's too much work and not enough rewards... it's easier to just set up speed traps to make money....

I've just become a victim of spoofing! I answered but hung up as soon as I heard "credit card services." Ok I goofed, but I turned off my answering machine' turn off the ringer on my phone in the bedroom; let the phone ring off the hook till kingdom comes; only answer if I know the caller or know a call I am expecting.

Greetings; I have had this issue for a couple of years. For a while it was slowing down. Then I made a mistake recently and answered an unknown phone number and it has started up again...ARG!
Please do not engage these folks by pushing any numbers to "talk to an account agent". This only makes things worse. Believe me, I did that for a little while and the calls increased...sometimes I was getting 7 or more calls in a day.
I called the FTC (877)382-4357 and made a formal complaint. They gave me a reference number. They also wanted me to write down the phone numbers. This eventually got too exhausting.
My encouragement to you, if you don't recognize the phone number then don't answer the call. If it is a real call then they will leave a phone message. "Rachel" does not leave a phone message...at least not in my experience.

What do they really want from you? Card numbers? What is the reason they call?

Yes, robocallers are often after your financial information, like a credit card or bank account number, or your Social Security number.

I am beyond irritated with these calls. I have been pretty free and clear on my cell, until today. Now, after being told "Mmm hmm, good luck with that" after requesting my number be removed, I am MAD AS HELL! I have heard there is a law stating after you have asked to no longer receive calls 3 times, it becomes harassment and charges can be filed. Does anyone know if there is any truth to that? I am seriously considering starting something, this has gotten way too out of hand.

I just got a call from Carmen at Cardholder Services...looks like she changed her name lol.

Rachel from Cardholder services has called both my cell and my home phone this morning. And the guy who answered when I pressed 9 to get a live operator (because I always do, just to waste their time and not give them a sale) claimed to work for Experian.

I am getting so tired of these calls. They are irritating plus they call at all times of the night. Give it a break already. I have put them on the Do Not Call List and they still call...something has to be done about this.

I use my number for business. Scammers should be given the death penalty.

I have also had this problem for about 2 years or more! What happened with the meeting of computer nerds,experts,etc.that were going to compete to stop this invasion of our right for privacy and our refuge, our home.
PLEASE help us! I just got a new card services name of Ashley today.Added to Carmen,Bridgett,Rachel and possibly others.
Also,a new call saying "so many fall every year, I think it says,then I hang up before hearing any more.

The government can find bin laden but they can't find Rachel. Hmm... Do they truly care or what?

My strategy for zapping rachel is as follows:

i got a new cell phone number and transferred my old phone number to google voice. any phone calls that are in my google address book are forwarded to my cellphone. any unrecognized phone numbers are blocked by google voice.

when i give any new people my phone number, i give them my new cell phone number. I've also informed my personal contacts of my new phone number. I was unable to simply cancel my old phone number because I also use it for business calls. so if i still get a call from a real person on my old number, it will just go to my google voice voicemail, which will be emailed to me, and I can call the real person back on my new phone number.

anyone that is pestered by rachel but for their own particular reasons is not willing to terminate their phone number should try this strategy. it works great!

when i log into google voice, i can see that rachelbot still calls me about 5-15 times a week. but it doesnt go anyware. Problem solved.

This issue need to be addressed at the root--the source of those letting this happen==>the phone companies. Phone companies should be held liable for allowing this to happen and be fined. If they do not do this, they will find themselves on the losing end when Google like companies address this problem by taking responsibility and prevent this from happening.

One way to stop this is to NOT HANG UP when they call. If it's Rachel from Credit Card Services? Press 1 to talk to a live operator. Tell them you have high credit card debt. Tell them you're looking for your credit card. Keep them on the line as long as possible! The only way they stay profitable is if they can move through the numbers quickly.

Yes like most of you I hate those calls from Rachel and other robots. I have tried nicely to have my name removed from their list(which has never worked. Since they dont have my name and dont know who I am It has been known that a whistle or very loud noise(starting horn,etc) gets blown into the mouth piece. I tell them that its nothing personal but.... Then I block them from calling. This may not be the nicest way to things but I have been on the National Don Not Call list for 3 years. So it is what it is.

Rachel has a brother, who works for microsoft and he wants to help me because they noticed that i have a computer problem. I am sure he is an Asian Indian.

The FTC is a sham agency... They do nothing... Our President nominates five commissioners that can help him politically. Our government has run "a-muck", they do nothing for the people. It's all run like a business to see how much money and influence each politician can amass. Do something to stop it... VOTE LIBERTARIAN!

Why can't they just follow the money? Visa gives the people some tracked credit cards, you get the robocall, give them the credit card info, Visa tracks down the merchant accounts, bank accounts, addresses, someone would have slipped somewhere and given some real info, I mean you might have to go through some UPS mail boxes and maybe a stakeout to find someone accessing the box, but once you nab that guy the thing should fall apart

I think I might have the easiest way to deal with these people. When they call, connect to someone live (usually press 1) and start using words that the CIA/FBI would look for, like "Did you get the bomb place at the Whitehouse?". I'm pretty sure we could get some traction on finding them.

Well I build a call blocker that will hang up on all calls automatically on my blacklist after the first ring. Unfortunately, these law breakers choose random numbers to call on, including my own number. Can't the NSA track them, stop them, KILL them, they are emotionally raping me. DO SOMETHING. I know they are using VoIP, have the NSA track the VoIP address to the source and throw them in Jail!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I wonder if the land line telephone companies even have a clue as to how many customers they have lost, because of Rachel and friends. I would think that if somebody was destroying your business you would pull out all stops and find the culprit and then go after them with every legal means.

How many customers have the landline companies lost due to the harassment of Rachel and friends? I would think that would be motivation to find and destroy card services.

Just received a Rachel from card holder services call from Oklahoma (918-735-1265).
I let the gentleman (asshole) with a strong accent take all my information including verifying my 15 digit AMEX account number (HE He) which I gladly gave to him (Of course I changed quite a few numbers) after he verified the number for the second time he told me to I laughed my off & let him know I got him before he hung up on me. Now, That's the way to fight back. Waste as much of their time as possible. They must have some type of quota of calls to make. Act really stupid and in dept up to your ears. I hope something can be done in the future. I get about 1 or 2 of these calls per day.

HOW ABOUT THE FTC OFFER A REWARD OF $50 TO 100K FOR AN EXISTING "CARDHOLDER SERVICES" EMPLOYEE TO COME FORWARD AND BLOW THE COVER OF WHERE EVER THIS OPERATION IS BASED AND RAID THE PLACE, SHUT THEM DOWN AND PUT SOME PEOPLE IN JAIL. SOMEBODY, SOME WHERE HAS TO KNOW WHERE THESE SCUMBAGS ARE BASED.

I am also getting these daily calls for the last time credit card services will be calling me for my reduced rate. I made the mistake of pressing one to talk to a supervisor and they hung up. The phone company sees the same thing as me, just cell ohone, no number. I am on the do not call list too.

The Do Not Call registry was not created to stop all calls, especially if the calls are scam calls trying to get $$$ or your personal information. Legitimate businesses follow the laws and don’t call people. The scam callers are a much of frauds and cons and could care less about the DNC, it’s just another law that they’re breaking, it probably gives them great delight that their calls are irritating the hell out of people. Just don’t answer the phone when “unknown”, “unavailable” or any type of 800 # are calling or your own number shows. That’s why they keep calling every day because their calls are being answered. If you stop answering their calls they will eventually stop calling, it may a few months for them to stop calling but they will stop.

It's hard to believe that if FTC wanted to, they would've shut down those criminals. "Rachel" has cost me a lot of money when I started receiving their robo-calls on my mobile while traveling overseas. What they do is illegal and it is harassment. FTC is an impotent and incompetent agency that failed to protect the people they are paid to protect.

As long as the US Government allows capitol punishment, they should make this activity a capitol offense and publicly hang all persons associated with said activity. I bet they don't have this issue in Saudi Arabia or any number of countries where they deal with crime with the true intent of preventing it.

We have too many federal commissions and not enough "political will". This would be a relatively easy problem to solve. Our lawmakers obviously have people to answer phones and screen calls for them, otherwise they would solve an issue that robs many millions of Americans annually of billions in lost time and productivity. Our congress seems to be all to busy raising funds for their next campaigns and all too little time taking care of ordinary citizens (doing the peoples business). Vote the bums out.

OK so the contest resulted in what? nothing. This is a serious consumer issue. I am greatly concerned that the Government can't stop this phone activity. Seriously! These calls hit elderly people who don't understand that it is scam. Not to mention how many hours are wasted by dealing with these phone calls. These people need to be fined, arrested and punished. Remember the spam fax laws? Why can't we charge the offenders behind this scam for every call made. Stop with the fun and games and start getting serious about solving this issue.

most of the robacallers now use the same software which includes a "press 8 to be removed from our list" even if they dont state it in the message, so every time I get one of these calls, I just press 8 and they usually hang up immediately. And over a period of a few months the call rate drops to near zero. However, i just changed carriers (not numbers) and the call rate jumped right up, aparently they look for "new accounts" or "closed accounts" notices from carriers and assume that the DNC registry no longer applies.

I just got another call from Rachel -- on my CELL phone. How can this not be a high priority to stop?

This "Rachel" has got to stop and stop now. The FTC can certainly stop it if they wanted to. Like others have said, The FTC should be defunded since they are pretty much useless.

Just tried to register a complaint about Rachel with the FTC and their site is trying to infect my computer.

Dear citizens: You were taxed billions of dollars to develop and maintain the world's 'greatest' communications monitoring apparatus. Your leaders told you it was necessary to protect you from bad people both foreign and domestic. Unless the money was spent only to line the pockets of contractors and political cronies, I want to see NSA technology and resources used to identify scoff-law telemarketers and have them drug before the courts. It hasn't happened yet and I no longer expect it. We're our own. Really.

There would certainly be enough people that would show up for "Rachel's" conviction party to swing a lot of elections.

1)Get to speak to a live person
2)Say "When you want to quit that job, I'll offer you $1,000 to expose the all the dirty details of your employer - photos & audio pay extra. You have my number. Call me when you're ready."
3) Repeat this enough times, and either someone will rat, or the company will stop calling you for fear you'll successfully bribe an employee and blow their cover.

Honestly how was this article written eight months ago about a problem that's been going on for ten years, there are billions if not trillions of dollars invested in monitoring the lives of human beings, and you can't manage to stop this one stupid fly-by-night company from making every single owner of a landline phone miserable? Are we seriously supposed to believe that the US government is incapable of finding a company that clearly employs hundreds if not thousands of people? Come on, do something about this.

I have been getting harassed for years by this fraudulent "company" - and I'm over it. Today, I played along (like I have before), and the guy said he was calling from Visa. I let him say his little paragraph, and then said, "Oh, maybe you have the wrong person. I only have a Mastercard, so it starts with a 5." This was, of course, after he asked me to verify my Visa card, starting with the digit number 4.

He said, "That's what I said. I'm calling from Visa and Mastercard Card Services."

After a while it became boring, so I just screamed really loud into the phone, and he hung up.

When are these people going to be stopped? What's more appauling to me, is that there are people that would work for this forsaken 'business' and continue to come back day after day.

I wish we could hear from someone who has made these calls... to see how they really feel and if they could provide any information to shut these folks down for good.

PS... To the person that posted about "...from making every single owner of a landline phone miserable."

I haven't had a landline phone in over 10 years. They call my cell phone.

I have recently began to get calls now where a guy says, "HELLO, SENIORS!"

I just turned 31.

The Do not call registry only works for "legitimate" services, scammers don't give a hoot about it.
Three easy steps to get rid of spammers
1) Don't answer the call
2) Google the number
3) Block the number
It will take awhile for the calls to diminish, but you will definitely
notice a decrease in the number of junk calls you get each day.

It is a simple technical matter for a telemarketer to check phone numbers against the do not call list. It is extremely reliable. Then have an escalating series of fines for Do not call violations.
First offence$1000
Senond offence 10,000
Third offence $100,000
Foruth offence $1,000,000 And company officers are prosecuted and jailed.

I block and report numbers regularly, but since the Caller ID information is now all spoofed, it makes no difference. I get up to 10 of these calls each week. It is a plague of monumental proportions because the scammers have found a cheap and risk-free way to make money, and the infection is spreading.

WHERE IS OUR GOVERNMENT!!!!!!????????? THIS is what YOU, The FTC, AND the FCC, are paid to do...PROTECT US FROM THESE VERMIN!!!!
DO YOUR JOBS!!!!!!!!
A good chunk of these criminals are using VOIP from major carriers, either sold directly to them or resold through intermediaries. How about we hold the First Tier sellers responsible for the manure passing through their networks!?? I think a $10,000 fine per instance would solve this problem very quickly. Who's with me!!????

I love it. They call me so often that they now apparently have some comments in their computer about me giving them false information. Today I got one who got mad as soon as he saw my name and began trying to offend me with his tirade and insults. Guess they "have my number" as they say. Just wish they had an 800 number I could call to harass them. Great entertainment when you're a retired cop and know how to "get their goat."

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