Why haven't we been able to stop robocalls?

By , KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Robocalls are annoying. They’re incessant. And they’ve only gotten worse.

A caller ID message warning about “Potential Spam” seems like the best safeguard we have when it comes to robocalls, and even then, we only get that courtesy occasionally.

But robocalls have been around for a long time, said Dr. Brian Stuart, a computer science professor at Drexel University.

“Pretty much as soon as computers started communicating with modems people were interested in finding out what other computers were out there to talk to,” he explained.

Now, basically everyone has a cellphone and the plans offered by phone companies have benefited spam operations.

“Nowadays, part of the advertising and selling of the services is well, all your calls are covered under one flat fee,” Stuart said, including long distance calling.

And at this point, Stuart said the phone companies have to think, “to do something about it effectively means cutting off one of their customers, they would really need a good sense that to not do something is going to cause them to lose more customers.”

To complicate the issue, not all spam calls are “bad.”

The American Red Cross uses robocall, and if you donate blood, they call you every once in a while using the same technology.

He said unless there is a customer uprising or a new service provider disrupts the market with promises of fewer spam calls, there’s really only one thing frustrated phone owners can do: ignore the calls and wait.

“If nobody ever responded to them, if there was never any benefit to the people making the calls, then they wouldn't do it," Stuart said.

He added that if enough people keep ignoring these calls enough times, it will "reach a point where the benefit is outweighed by the cost, and it will pretty much stop when that happens.”

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