Brief Summary:

Allow end-user consumers acting individually and independently to catastrophically impair robocalling business models with minimal effort and cost by slightly increasing the length of each call.


I wasn't going to submit this idea.  It seems far too obvious and simplistic.  God knows I've mentioned it before.  I've craved this capability ever since telemarketing was first invented.  And I do fear that it may be ruled invalid based on sections 6,C,iii (already public domain) or 6,D,ii (prior submissions).  I'm afraid I have not been following developments in this field very closely.  (In the event it is not already in the public domain, I hereby release any hold I might have or be able to obtain on this idea to the public domain.)

Yesterday evening I received yet another robocall.  This time they were scamming Disneyworld vacations.  On one hand I have a 7 year old who's thrilled that we "won" and I'm trying to explain how it's just a scam.  On the other, there's my toddler who finally fell asleep for his nap only to get woken up by the call.  At this point I'm leaning towards castration as a solution.  Since that's not likely to be accepted, lets try something more feasible.

The Proposal:

Add into our telecommunications infrastructure the ability for the receiver (and only the receiver) of a phone call to play an audible tone into their phone handset, be that tone a single audible frequency or a set of audible frequencies, such that while this tone is playing the caller (sender) cannot hang up for a maximum period of 10 minutes.  This is an asymmetrical ability in that only the receiver of the call can force the connection to stay open for up to a maximum of 10 minutes.

That's it.  That's the whole idea.

Robocallers are all about the numbers.  If a single call takes 6 seconds that translates into 10 calls a minute or 600 calls an hour.  At 15 seconds a call it's 4 calls a minute or 240 calls an hour.  With an end-user locking open the line for 10 minutes, that's 6 calls an hour.  6 calls an hour is not viable for a business strategy that consists of harassing tens of millions of people to find someone dumb enough to fall for their scams.

10 minutes of phone time, even on my cell, is a small price to pay for destroying their business model.

I have to figure these robocallers will start placing folks who lock open their line for 10 minutes on some sort of toxic do-not-call-under-penalty-of-death no-call list.  So I spend 10 or 20 minutes of my phone time and I'm golden.

Naturally the robocallers will just switch to calling everyone who doesn't lock open their line more often, which will only serve to encourage those folks to start locking their lines for 10 minutes.  Positive feedback in action.  It's a beautiful thing.

For legitimate robocallers, I have every confidence that our telecommunications providers will find a way to sell them "immune" lines at a very *cough* *cough* reasonable price.  Though a quick check on how many folks still try (now unsuccessfully) to lock the line would give useful feedback on just how unpopular such legitimate robocalling activities are.

Hardware-wise, the technology to produce these tones is trivial.  You can build a simple oscillator circuit yourself from parts at Radio Shack for less than the cost of a burger at McDonalds.  God knows there will be apps available for *every* computational device known to man in a matter of minutes, be they iPads, Android tablets, laptops, desktops, iMacs, or whatever.  Heck, you could produce the tones straight from the Linux command line with a little effort.  Or download a free mp3 and play it.  Or burn a CD and play it on your stereo.  Or just visit the right website and put your phone near the computer.  I'm sure Walmart will be selling some little trinket in their checkout line by the end of the week.  Cost to the end-user is negligible.

Once you can generate the tone, which is just a set of one or more audible frequencies, kind of like music or singing, you can play in into the microphone of any existing telephone.

On the telecommunications infrastructure side, well those folks have been using audible tones for control and switching for a great many decades now.  Touch-tones allow us to dial.  Phone phreakers used to use all sorts of audible-tone generating devices to (illegally) mimic the trunk-line routing signals.  Surely this asymmetric lock open for 10 minutes feature is something they could incorporate...

On the downside, I'm sure there will be false positives.  However, it's only 10 minutes.  It's not the end of the world unless you're annoying an awful lot of people.  (In which case you might want to rethink your life...)  Besides, how often do you call someone who wants to be a jerk to you?

On the upside, well I had to buy a new cell phone and change my phone number a while back.  The previous owner of that number was a deadbeat who owed folks money.  I got several thousand phone calls from bill collectors who refused to identify themselves and would not stop calling me over and over again no matter what I did.  I paid by the minute on that cell phone.  The costs were substantial, and all out of my own pocket.  That cell phone was purchased for emergencies so my kids' schools could reach me.  And they have had to reach me!  All told, it was an expensive problem.

A 10-minute forcing of the line open solution would have really helped!  I, acting alone, couldn't have done diddly squat.  Though when you factor in everyone else they were harassing, acting collectively and completely independently we could have shut them down!
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