WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Pre-recorded telemarketing calls have become a large enough problem that the federal government is now offering $50,000 to anyone who can figure out a way to block them.

Despite being illegal in many areas, however, “robocalls” persist — and they generate tens of thousands of consumer complaints each month. Robocalls are illegal unless a consumer gives consent in writing to receive them. But many companies see them as a low-cost, low-risk way of reaching out – and many times scamming – a massive pool of customers.

The Federal Trade Commission figures crowdsourcing is the best solution to the problem of pre-recorded sales calls. The agency has launched the “FTC Robocall Challenge” to “to tap into the genius and technical expertise among the public,” David Vladeck, the head of the FTC’s consumer protection bureau, told Time.

One of the most notorious robocalls was the infamous “Rachel from Cardholder Services” scam, in which 2.6 billion people were called and nearly 13 million suckered into paying a fee to reduce their credit card rates, Time reported. The calls were blasted out in a massive barrage, including one day in April 2009 when it launched out 2.4 million calls – more than 27 per second.

Automated political pitches are exempt from the U.S. Do Not Call Registry and will continue regardless.

The “Robocall Challenge” contest will run from Oct. 25 through Jan. 17 and is open to any individual, team or corporation with less than 10 people. The contest winner will be announced in April and is available on the FTC website.


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