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Driving Robocallers Crazy With the Jolly Roger Bot

Robocalls are among the more annoying modern inventions, and consumers and businesses have tried just about every strategy for defeating them over the years, with little success. But one man has come up with a bot of his own that sends robocallers into a maddening hall of mirrors designed to frustrate them into surrender.

The bot is called the Jolly Roger Telephone Company, and it’s the work of Roger Anderson, a veteran of the phone industry himself who had grown tired of the repeated harassment from telemarketers and robocallers. Anderson started out by building a system that sat in front of his home landlines and would tell human callers to press a key to ring through to his actual phone line; robocallers were routed directly to an answering system. He would then white-list the numbers of humans who got through.

“Now, I figured telemarketers would just press a button, so I also programmed it to send me an email that included links to set the behavior next time this same caller-id called. I could (1) send this caller to a disconnect message, (2) let them through to the house, or (3) challenge them again next time,” Anderson said in a post detailing the system.

“It worked perfectly. From that moment, telemarketers never rang through to the house. Not one telemarketer has rung through in the last two years.”

But, because of the way that predictive dialers work, the robocallers would hang up on the system after a few seconds. So Anderson developed an algorithm that would answer robocalls and then respond with a variety of common phrases and will even go back to the “hello, hello” handshake if the caller pauses for more than a few seconds. Anderson has had a huge amount of success with the bot and posts interesting calls on his blog, like the ones that come from Google listing scammers.

The bot is designed not just to reroute the callers, but to frustrate them and waste their time, as well. Sometimes the Jolly Roger bot will press buttons to be transferred to a human agent and other times it will just recite inanities if a human is on the other end of the line to begin with. Anderson also has set up a system so other people can send their robocalls to the Jolly Roger bot. He has set up a Kickstarter campaign to fund the development of a consumer version of the bot.

Image from Flickr stream of Nicolas Raymond

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