A Long Island software developer has created an online service that promises to block robocallers before they even reach a person's phone.
Nomorobo, which launches online in September free of charge, was designed by Aaron Foss, who won a Federal Trade Commission contest for his invention.
"I think about it like email spam. If we try to stop spammers, it's a battle we can't win," said Foss, of Port Jefferson. "But we can get it and stop it in our spam boxes, and Nomorobo was designed after the same idea."
Even though more people are signing up for the Do Not Call registry than ever before, the FTC has also received a record number of complaints about unwanted calls: in 2012, the FTC reported a record 3.8 million complains, up 69 percent from 2011.
"Do Not Call was widely recognized as an effective way to be rid of unwanted calls," says Deborah Marrone of the Federal Trade Commission. "But technology changed. Now it's very cheap and very easy to do, so that thousands of calls can be made for less than a penny a minute from anywhere in the world."
Certain robocalls are allowed, like automated messages from a bank or local government representatives or an airline warning of flight delays. But the robocalls people are complaining about are usually from companies trying to sell debt consolidation or mortgage refinancing services, and in worse cases, companies that are trying to scam people.
"Who wants to get a call from a robot," said Kaci Knight of Woodside, Queens. "I would say I get robocalls once or twice a week."
"I really hate it when it comes to my cell phone," said Liz Chung of Dyker Heights. "I look at the number and I think, maybe it's someone I need to speak to, and then I pick up and it's a recorded message."
With Nomorobo, all calls are screened before they reach a person's phone. If the service detects a robocall, it will play a message announcing that robocall-blocking is working.
Until the service launches in September, federal officials advise phone owners who get robocalls to write down the phone number, hang up and call the FTC to report it.