New app turns your phone into a fortress against robocalls

FRESNO, Calif. -- Sandra Armas of Fresno can now spend some quiet downtime, catching up on the news or her favorite shows without the annoyance of telemarketing calls on her cell phone at all hours of the day.

"I would still be in bed asleep and they would call me at like, 630 in the morning."

Armas would block unknown callers on her phone until the telemarketers starting using numbers that looked local.

"They got slick with it. I would get numbers that would say 559 but they would say Avenal or Caruthers."

The busy 21-year-old who holds two jobs and doesn't have the time or the patience, like most of us, to answer and block the relentless stream of robocalls. But then she saw an ad for the RoboKiller App.

Before Armas downloaded RoboKiller, she had to manually block unwanted calls. Every one of those numbers represents the time she spent doing that-- but now the app does it for her.

Co-creator Ethan Garr spoke to us from his headquarters in New Jersey about the inspiration for the app.

"When the phone rings it shouldn't feel like an intrusion. It should feel like, 'hey, that's probably someone I want to talk to'. So that's what RoboKiller is all about. It's giving you back control of your phone."

RoboKiller won a federal trade commission award for the best new robocall blocker. It not only identifies and stops the calls from ringing on your phone it includes answer bots that turn the tables on the telemarketers with clever, recorded voices, that fool the spammer into thinking a real person picked up the call.

Once a telemarketer is trapped by an answer bot, the conversation is recorded on your phone for a good laugh and a little retribution.

Garr said, "Sure it's fun, it's hilarious, very zany but the other side of it serves a real purpose. When those answer bots are wasting spammers time, that's the time they can't use to waste other people's time."

Garr said his company tracks telemarketing data and he was surprised, by the Fresno area's numbers.

"So we see 1.3, 1.4 robocalls per day to California residents and I was shocked because Fresno is more than double that. Like 3.1 calls on average per day."

Garr said when telemarketers have success in a certain area, they will flood that area with more calls and that success amounts to a fortune. He said spammers spend $438 million dollars a year on calls but they make $9.5-billion by taking people's money and stealing identities.

RoboKiller costs $2.99 a month or $24.99 a year but starts with a seven-day free trial.

Armas said it's a small price for peace and quiet and peace of mind, knowing she can't be reached by scammers.

"I have to keep it on my phone now forever."
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