How We Solved the Robocall Problem. For Everyone.

In the last few days you’ve probably received a pre-recorded phone call from “Rachel from cardholder services” or some other fake human. Welcome to the world of robocalls, which are not only annoying but are part of elaborate scams that cost Americans hundreds of millions of dollars every year. The problem is so pervasive that many people have resorted to unplugging their landlines and cursing incessantly every time their mobile phones ring. When we realized the problem wasn’t just annoying, but that it is actually hurting millions of people who are being defrauded, Bryan Moyles and I decided to try to solve the problem ourselves.

There have been many attempts to block robocalls, ranging from the do-not-call list and federal laws to technical solutions, but the unfortunate reality is that these approaches haven’t worked.

Until now.

RoboKiller, the app we built, is so effective at blocking these machine-generated calls that it just won the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) “Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back” contest — a national competition to build the best tool to end this growing problem. It’s not only a great validation of our work, but the $25,000 prize (along with our KickStarter campaign) will go a long way in helping us bring RoboKiller to market.

So what makes RoboKiller special, and why does it work where other solutions have fallen short? To use a basketball analogy, we play the man, not the ball. Most other solutions focus on collection and then blocking phone numbers by caller ID. It’s a great approach in theory, but it’s not so good on the execution because scammers simply use blocked and spoofed numbers to fool the filters. Other products on the market do an okay job — but they don’t work on all phones.

RoboKiller is a free app that works on every phone — landline or mobile — regardless of what kind of device you have or who your carrier is. The “secret sauce” is audio fingerprinting, which eliminates the guesswork that other solutions use. In simple terms, RoboKiller automatically forwards incoming calls to a voice-recognition platform that can tell if a call is from a human or a machine, even if the recording has a human voice. Calls from humans ring through; however, robocalls go to a spam folder and never ring on your phone. Of course, we let people whitelist legitimate computer-generated calls (such as notifications from pharmacies or calls from their child’s school), but unwanted calls simply go away, forever.

It’s a real solution to the robocall problem.

RoboKiller’s beta app is available to anyone who funds us through KickStarter.

By Ethan M. Garr, Team Robokiller

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