Phones

FTC Offers Prize for Fighting Robocalls

$50,000 to whomever can figure out how to block them

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The government's latest line of defense against robocalls? You.

The Federal Trade Commission is offering what's essentially a $50,000 bounty to slay telephonic spam once and for all.

The contest is the FTC's latest attempt to stem a skyrocketing number of robocalls, which too often ring through when dinner's on the table. In July, the agency announced that complaints about automated calls had more than tripled in the last two years, from 65,000 in 2010 to 212,000 in 2012.

The FTC has shut down companies responsible for 2.6 billion telemarketing calls since such calls were outlawed in 2009, but that's a drop in the bucket. The agency says it can't trace or block about 59% of phone spam because the calls route through a tangle of automatic dialers, caller ID spoofing and voice-over-Internet protocols.