TARGET 8: "Answer Bots" wasting spammers' time through innovative app

9 months 4 weeks 1 day ago Monday, February 12 2018 Feb 12, 2018 Monday, February 12, 2018 1:44:00 PM CST February 12, 2018 in News
By: Stephanie Sandoval, KOMU 8 Reporter
loading

COLUMBIA - Telemarketers and spammers are targeting people nationwide, especially during tax season, but there are some innovative apps fighting back against the scammers.

RoboKiller, an iPhone app created and developed by TelTech, automatically blocks robocalls and telemarketers, even if the callers spoof a local number that’s not theirs to begin with. 

The vice president of Product for TelTech Systems, Ethan Garr, contacted KOMU 8 News after our Target 8 team ran a story on spoofing

Garr said the app wasted an estimated over 15,000 hours of spammers' time in January compared to December, which wasted around 12,000 hours. 

“Our attitude is 'time is money for these people' and the calls are very cheap to make and that’s why this whole industry exists, so if we could figure out a way to steal time from them, we steal money from them and we essentially put them out of business and that’s our goal,” Garr said.

The app uses audio fingerprinting and a machine-learning algorithm. The app also fights back by answering spammers with RoboKiller “Answer Bots” that talk back to the spammer to waste their time.

“They’re really funny and they’re hilarious and they drive the spammers crazy because they think they’re talking to a real human,” Garr said. 

According to data collected by the RoboKiller Task Force, there are 2,726 spam and robocalls made every second in the United States. 

TelTech is also the maker of SpoofCard, an app that can easily disguise your caller ID and make it so you’re calling from a different number. Garr said SpoofCard “was never intend for a nefarious reason.” He said many professionals use SpoofCard as a way to keep their personal phone numbers private from clients, customers or patients. 

“We’re always trying to solve problems for people on their mobile phones and while spoof card gets a bad rap, the vast majority are using it for very legitimate purposes,” Garr said. “If you’re a doctor, and you need to call a patient from home at night, being able to protect your mobile phone number so you don’t get calls every night from a patient is a very common use.” 

There are many other apps similar to RoboKiller, too, such as Nomorobo, TrapCall  and Avast Call Blocker

Each app claims to stop robocalls, though each app is unique.

According to Nomorobo’s website, it has services for bot cellular and landline phones. As stated on its website, Nomorobo for landlines uses a feature known as "Simultaneous Ring.” If the call is an illegal robocaller, the app intercepts the call and hangs up. 

Another landline option is a call-blocking box, which costs anywhere from $20-$150.

TrapCall claims it puts names and faces to callers with Live Caller ID and unmasks unknown callers. According to its website, it will show you “who they are, where they live and how they look even before you answer the call.” It also records incoming calls. 

Avast Call Blocker claims it won’t access your contacts list in your phone for those who have privacy concerns. The app also claims it allows people to block any number they want — not just spammers. 

Melinda Kidder, private investigator and owner of Columbia Investigations, said apps like these are excellent, but are not 100 percent effective.  

“If you’re only having one or two calls here or there every now and then, and it’s only mildly annoying then I wouldn’t recommend it,” Kidder said. “But if it’s something that is someone is obsessively calling you or you're excessively experiencing robo dial calls then I absolutely recommend that kind of service.”

Kidder said to always check into a company because “different models may have different issues.” She recommends reading the reviews, checking prices and privacy policy before deciding on which app to use. 

“If someone has the same type of phone, same type of phone service provider that you use, same type of voicemail that you use and if they use another call forwarding service that you use,” Kidder said, “then I would check into any issues that they may have had with the service prior to using that app.” 

However, she said apps like this may not be the right app for people who live rurally and utilize call forwarding. Kidder lives in a rural area and uses Google Voice, which allows a call to be forwarded to another phone, so if a call drops she can pick up the other phone. 

“But if I were to engage in a service like RoboKiller or Truecaller or Avast Call Blocker, then that would interrupt the call forwarding,” she said. 

Another concern is privacy. Most of the apps available blocking robocalls save calls or recordings on its servers instead of saving it on the person’s phone. Kidder said technically developers could go in and look through voicemails. 

“Chances of them going in and doing that are slim,” Kidder said. “But let’s say you’re a doctor or a psychotherapist or something and you receive confidential calls. That may not be a service for you.” 

Garr said an Android app version of RoboKiller is in underway. He expects the app to launch in early March. 

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA - Runners and walkers dressed up in holiday wear for the annual Jingle Bell Run in Columbia on Saturday,... More >>
4 days ago Saturday, December 08 2018 Dec 8, 2018 Saturday, December 08, 2018 7:43:00 AM CST December 08, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - A formerly homeless veteran is helping other vets expand their horizons by cycling. Tyler Kempker leads a... More >>
4 days ago Friday, December 07 2018 Dec 7, 2018 Friday, December 07, 2018 8:53:00 PM CST December 07, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Despite smoke-free laws and the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes, a large number of Americans are being exposed to... More >>
4 days ago Friday, December 07 2018 Dec 7, 2018 Friday, December 07, 2018 6:56:00 PM CST December 07, 2018 in News
URANUS, Mo. (AP) — The Uranus Examiner, a small Missouri newspaper whose name inspired chuckles and groans when it... More >>
4 days ago Friday, December 07 2018 Dec 7, 2018 Friday, December 07, 2018 6:33:20 PM CST December 07, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Mike Parson held a conference Friday afternoon discussing what needs to be done to fix abuse... More >>
4 days ago Friday, December 07 2018 Dec 7, 2018 Friday, December 07, 2018 3:43:00 PM CST December 07, 2018 in News
SEDALIA - A new daycare is trying to open up for business, but it’s right next to a nursing home... More >>
4 days ago Friday, December 07 2018 Dec 7, 2018 Friday, December 07, 2018 3:17:00 PM CST December 07, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA- High school football teams from around the state will travel to Memorial Stadium for the next five years to... More >>
4 days ago Friday, December 07 2018 Dec 7, 2018 Friday, December 07, 2018 2:15:00 PM CST December 07, 2018 in Sports
KANSAS CITY - President Trump spoke about changes to Project Safe Neighborhoods in Kansas City on Friday. He praised... More >>
5 days ago Friday, December 07 2018 Dec 7, 2018 Friday, December 07, 2018 1:07:00 PM CST December 07, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- Former FBI Director James Comey is testifying Friday before members of Congress behind closed doors, setting the stage... More >>
5 days ago Friday, December 07 2018 Dec 7, 2018 Friday, December 07, 2018 12:30:33 PM CST December 07, 2018 in Continuous News
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. businesses added a smaller but still-healthy number of jobs last month, while the unemployment rate... More >>
5 days ago Friday, December 07 2018 Dec 7, 2018 Friday, December 07, 2018 12:07:00 PM CST December 07, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Police officers responded to a crash involving a car and a pedestrian at the intersection of East... More >>
5 days ago Friday, December 07 2018 Dec 7, 2018 Friday, December 07, 2018 11:43:00 AM CST December 07, 2018 in News
STOCKHOLM - University of Missouri Professor Emeritus George Smith and his fellow Nobel laureates in Chemistry, Physics and Economic Sciences... More >>
5 days ago Friday, December 07 2018 Dec 7, 2018 Friday, December 07, 2018 10:55:00 AM CST December 07, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A judge sentenced Terrance Wynn to life in prison for a murder on Halloween in 2016. ... More >>
5 days ago Friday, December 07 2018 Dec 7, 2018 Friday, December 07, 2018 10:33:26 AM CST December 07, 2018 in News
VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican has launched an investigation into a small Chilean religious order of nuns after... More >>
5 days ago Friday, December 07 2018 Dec 7, 2018 Friday, December 07, 2018 10:27:28 AM CST December 07, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- President Donald Trump has decided to nominate former Attorney General William Barr to be the next permanent head... More >>
5 days ago Friday, December 07 2018 Dec 7, 2018 Friday, December 07, 2018 10:14:53 AM CST December 07, 2018 in News
BRANSON, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri high school student faces a felony charge after authorities say he posted on social... More >>
5 days ago Friday, December 07 2018 Dec 7, 2018 Friday, December 07, 2018 9:23:00 AM CST December 07, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY- Jefferson City Public Schools are considering changing school start and end times next year. Officials... More >>
5 days ago Thursday, December 06 2018 Dec 6, 2018 Thursday, December 06, 2018 9:50:00 PM CST December 06, 2018 in Continuous News
STOCKHOLM - MU Professor Emeritus Dr. George Smith has officially touched down in Stockholm, Sweden to begin a week of... More >>
5 days ago Thursday, December 06 2018 Dec 6, 2018 Thursday, December 06, 2018 5:54:00 PM CST December 06, 2018 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 50°
2pm 47°
3pm 50°
4pm 48°
5pm 44°