• ROBOCALL REVENGE: Testing the 'robo-killer' app

    By: Kathryn Burcham

    Updated:

    BOSTON - With robocalls on the rise, the office of Massachusetts Consumer Affairs now says the annoying scammers are the number one complaint from residents.

    But a new app, called RoboKiller, claims it can put an end to those frustrating calls.

    Busy parents, like Tara Dunn and Jessica Razza of Medfield, told Boston 25 News the robocalls have become so frequent, they rarely bother to answer unknown numbers on their cell phones.

    "I don't even flinch now when the home phone rings, sometime even my cell phone. I don't even really move to grab it as much anymore, being that it's usually those robocalls," Dunn said.

    Consumer experts said the robocall companies use spoofing to create fake phone number exchanges that often seem familiar to the victims, and that the companies can make robocalls up to thousands of times per minute.

    SCAMMERS ONE STEP AHEAD OF INVESTIGATORS

    Undersecretary for Massachusetts Consumer Affairs Bureau, John C. Chapman, told Boston 25 News his office turns over many of those complaints to the Mass. Attorney General's Office, but said the scammers are often one step ahead of investigators.

    "Their goal is to scam people, to get personal information from them that they would use for other purposes," Chapman said.

    That's where RoboKiller steps in, according to Chief Product Officer Ethan Garr.

    "RoboKiller stops the unwanted calls and telemarketers from ever reaching your phone," Garr said.

    Garr, who recently testified before Congress about the pervasive issue of robocalls, said his company designed the app for a contest sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission and won.

    ROBO REVENGE?

    RoboKiller not only diverts robocalls from customers' cell phones, but uses robots of its own to answer the call, and chat with the robocaller.

    "What their job is to do is to waste the scammers, time, and they're really good at it," Garr told Boston 25 News. "Sometimes we've kept them on the phones for as long as forty five, fifty minutes at a time."

    PUTTING IT TO THE TEST

    Both Dunn and Razza downloaded RoboKiller for the free one-week trial to put it to the test.

    When Boston 25 checked in with the women days later, both said they hadn't received any more robocalls.

    However, the app had diverted a few personal calls to the spam folder, including a voicemail from Dunn's husband.

    Garr admits a waylaid call happens to customers less than one percent of the time, but told Boston 25 News that as more users download the app, it will become even better at filtering what's real and what's not.

    "I think it has some kinks it needs to work out, but I think it's well on its way to being a good app," Razza said.

    Dunn also agreed with a positive review, saying "It's worth it for peace of mind...overall, it worked pretty well."

    MORE: Mass. house OKs ban on robocalls to cell phones

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