Action 9 puts 'Robokiller' app to the test

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Robocalls.

Just the word probably makes many people angry. Tay McQueen is one of those people.

"It's too much. It's way too much,” she said. “Can't deal with it at all."

McQueen doesn't usually pick up for a number she doesn't recognize, but one keeps calling her that looks close to her boyfriend's number, so sometimes it gets her.

Action 9's Jason Stoogenke is WSOC's consumer reporter and even he receives a lot of robocalls -- recently, it seems like more than usual.

He received 60 in 17 days.

Some robocallers are legitimate companies with aggressive sales tactics, but many are outright scams. Criminals talking about helping with credit cards, interest rates, or student loans. Some even claim to be the IRS in order to steal victim’s money.

The Federal Trade Commission sponsored a contest to identify and block robocalls and the app that won is appropriately called “Robokiller.”

"I think somebody's gotta fight back," Robokiller Vice President Ethan Garr said.

Most people try to avoid answering numbers they don't recognize, but if they do pick up, Robokiller records the call, analyzes the caller's voice (called audio-fingerprinting), identifies all the numbers associated with that same voice, and blocks them all.

There’s even an option to have some fun with the scammers, with something called an “Answer Bot.”

You choose from a list of sarcastic recordings which will answer the call and have long conversations with the callers, wasting their time.

Garr said it's not a gimmick, and that Answer Bot kept one scammer on the phone for more than 40 minutes.

"They think they're talking to a human and it drives them insane," Garr said.

So how well does Robokiller really work? Customer Michael McCann agreed to download the app and test it for one of WSOC’s sister stations for a week.

"So far, so good,” McCann said. “I've had no robocalls that have happened."

Robokiller is free the first week, but $2.99 per month after that, depending what package you select.