New technology provides a solution for annoying robocalls

It's happens right now -- all over America. People just sitting down to dinner -- or watching TV-- and the phone rings.

It's a robocall, or a telemarketer, or worse -- a con artist.

Telephone scams cost Americans $350 million a year, but now, there may be an answer to the unwanted calls.

It's hard to think of something more irritating than the robocall -- the computer-generated calls that always seem to come at the wrong time. They are calling to sell people something, if not to out right scam them.

In the first four months of this year, American phones received somewhere near 10-billion robocalls -- that's a record pace, and explains why complaints to the Federal Trade Commission are up 50 percent this year.

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Complaints to the Federal Trade Commission about robocalls are up 50 percent this year.

CBS News

"These calls are abusive and they're illegal," said Lois Greisman with the FTC. "Some of the calls are fraudulently pitching goods, they are offering something that doesn't exist."

What about the FTC's do-not-call list? That's not going to be much of a deterrent for scammers.

Which is where Aaron Foss comes in.

"We have antivirus on our computers, our servers are protected by firewalls," said Foss. "And email has spam filtering, but we don't have anything protecting our voice calls."

He developed "Nomorobo" -- software that detects high frequency calling patterns, and answers any robo-generated number calling, and hangs up before people have to deal with it.

Aaron Foss is going to be one popular guy.

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Aaron Foss.

CBS News

"When it first started it was answering a 1,000 calls an hour. Now its answering almost 39,000 calls an hour," he said.

So what does protection from robocalls cost?

While the major carriers and the FCC are currently hashing that out -- Aaron Foss's Nomorobo costs nothing to install on your landline.

As for your cell phone? The Nomorobo app goes for roughly $5 a month.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.