We've all been there. You're just sitting down to dinner following a long day at work when suddenly without warning the phone starts ringing and ringing.
[WEB EXTRA: Click here to sign up and stop robocalls]
Who would be calling now? Chances are it's a robocall, an automated, unwanted, high-tech interruption usually delivering some sort of spin or scam from a caller you don't know and don't want to know.
The Federal Trade Commission estimates 20 percent of all incoming calls nationwide are in fact, robocalls.
The callers' favorite day? Thursday.
Rich Waldor, a businessman, was dealing with dozens of those calls every week.
He spotted a blog about a system that hangs up on those robo-intrusions within one ring.
"I went to the procedures to sign up and within a day or so all the robocalls stopped."
The man behind the system? Aaron Foss. Foss is a freelance computer programmer who admits he didn't realize how bad the robocall problem was.
In an interview, Foss said he underestimated the need for something that would stop what he refers to as "illegal calls."
"We've blocked over 2.5 million robocalls and there are over 90,000 people using the system right now," Foss said.
Those results never would have been realized if it weren't for a Federal Trade Commission contest Foss likens to the "Bat Signal."
The FTC wanted a solution for the robocall problem.
Foss not only answered the call, he won, earning a cool $50,000 for his invention. He calls it "Nomorobo," that's NO- MO- ROBO, a software program that literally detects unwanted robocalls.
Foss said the system uses a program called "simultaneous ring." One ring and your phone hangs up.
The system is free to consumers and is protecting an estimated 100,000 phone lines to date.
Go to Nomorobo.com, put in your phone number and phone carrier and in about two minutes your phone has a 24-hour guard ready to block those unwanted calls.
Foss said the system employs a sort of good list- bad list, allowing robocalls from the doctor's office pharmacy or your kid's school.
Right now it's limited to homes using their cable company's VOIP, or Voice Over IP phones, but Foss said he is working on making it available with wireless and hardline phones.
"I've been in talks with the carriers and there are various restrictions," Foss said. "I really don't have a time frame yet."
Cable carriers offering the system now include AT&T U-verse, Verizon Fios, Comcast, Vonage and Time Warner.
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