Robo Revenge: 8News investigates how you can take on robocallers

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Everyone’s familiar with those pesky and annoying calls from telemarketers, or even ‘robocalls.’ If you think you’ve seen an increase in them, you’re not imagining it.

8News has learned the Richmond area is being targeted more than other places in the country. But now, some people like Chesterfield resident Traci Cantin are fighting back, seeking robo-revenge.

“Some days, I would get three to five calls,” Cantin said.

Calls that are non-stop while she tries to work.

“You won timeshares, you won cruises, people who were just disrupting my day,” she says, describing the calls.

So, Cantin now pays $2.99 a month for an app called ‘robo killer,’ which sends suspicious and non-programmed numbers directly to voicemail.

The telemarketers are then tricked with Robokiller’s pre-recorded messages. 8News listened to one of the recorded messages:

“Hi, can I speak with Traci Cantin?

“Yes, um, yeah, hang — just give me two seconds,” the app replies.

The telemarketer actually holds on.

Robokiller offers a wide variety of humorous messages.

There’s the southern bell; “Oh my goodness hello. I have just been tickled waiting for your call.”

Another message features a man singing when the telemarketer calls, “Here’s the deal you just called me in a vocal training exercise mode,” the recording states.

Sometimes you can sense the telemarketer is frustrated.

“Why are you calling?” the recording asks. The telemarketer then raises his voice and replies, “can I speak sir?”

“They sometimes get a taste of their own medicine, because they bother you,” says Cantin, who has been having a good laugh with the app.

“Our attitude is if we can waste their time, we can take money out of their pocket and put them out of business,” explained Ethan Garr with TelTech, the creators of Robokiller.

Their research found robocallers are heavily targeting the Richmond region.

“We actually found that in November and December you guys were getting twice as many robocalls per day as our average user,” Garr explained.

Cantin noticed the callers were getting clever.  The calls started ringing in with her cell’s 732 area code.

‘What you are describing there is called ‘neighbor spoofing,'” Garr said.

It’s a trick he says make you think it’s someone you know. Garr says it’s most likely a scam.

“I noticed a lot of credit consolidation scams were being sent to Richmond users at really a much higher rate,” he said.

8News found robocalls are the number one complaint to the Federal Trade Commission with more than 7 million reports of unwanted calls in 2017. To help, there are several other robo blocking apps out there in addition to Robokiller.

YouMail plays an out of service message to callers. Hiya, Truecaller and Mr. Number will all filter or stop calls to your smartphone too.

“There was three blocked today,” says Cantin looking at her phone.

The Robokiller app lets you see and hear each call that is blocked. If a good call is mistakenly blocked, you can fix that.

“It asks you, do you want to continue blocking them?” she explains.

Robokiller is only available on IOS right now. An android version will be available soon.

You can learn more about the app here.

“It’s genius how they did it. I would recommend it, totally,” says Cantin.

If you file a complaint with the FTC, it can make a difference. The FTC has started passing along the phone number of some those robocall complaints to telecommunication carriers. They’re doing it on a daily basis and those carriers can also block numbers on your smartphone. Those carriers can also help block numbers on your device.

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