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How Artificial Intelligence has Helped Robocall Technology Evolve

Posted January 31, 2019

Back in the day — you know, when your phone was connected to the wall with a short cord — companies interested in growing their business would hire folks to cold call a list of phone numbers in order to sell prospects on some upcoming special in the hopes of landing them as customers.

Meantime, politicians and/or their staff might give their constituents a jingle to determine their views on matters of the day, while charitable organizations would dial a slew of numbers to solicit donations.

Robocall. Image via Pxhere, CC0 Public Domain

Robocall. Image via Pxhere, CC0 Public Domain

While you may still get unsolicited sales calls from time to time, robocalls have become the go-to source for companies looking to save money on hiring salespeople and, more importantly, garner more customers.

So how exactly do these companies go about it? Here’s a look at how AI is helping robocall technology evolve.

What Exactly is a Robocall?

We’ve all experienced it some form or fashion: You answer the phone and immediately begin to hear a pre-recorded message instead of a live human being trying to sway you to buy — or gauge your interest on — a particular product or service. Indeed, that’s a robocall in its purest form.

Of course, nonprofits and other organizations use autodialers to solicit donations, and politicians of every stripe often rely on this technology to sway minds and gain support. That’s not to say robocalls don’t serve useful and important purposes, as many government agencies rely on them to send out timely public-service or emergency announcements.

Still, if you receive a recorded message trying to sell you on a product or service, federal law says it’s actually illegal, according to the FTC. In general, unless you enjoy getting robocalls — and, if you do, you’re very much in the minority — the best thing to do is to simply hang up.

AI and Advancements in Robocalls

As you might suspect, companies that use and rely on robocalls have caught on pretty quickly to the fact that most people simply hang up after receiving these unsolicited messages. After all, the company owners themselves have likely experienced similar annoyances at the dinner table at one point or another.

To get around this issue, robocallers have gotten more clever and are now using artificial intelligence to try to hide the fact that you’re talking to a machine. According to Consumer Affairs, these machines are quite adept in their ability to provide answers to questions in a matter of seconds. But in some cases, these robocalls will attempt to sound like actual human beings by pausing between thoughts in order to make you believe you’re talking to a live agent.

In order for these types of calls to work, AI robocallers use the same types of voice response systems with which you’ve likely interacted numerous times. Unfortunately, if scammers decide to use this technology and the unsuspecting public doesn’t quickly realize they’re talking to a bot, they may be more inclined to provide their personal or financial information that they should otherwise keep private.

How to Handle AI Robocallers

If you get the sense you’re interacting with a robocall instead of an actual person, try certain tricks like whistling or singing in response to a question; after all, a live agent will undoubtedly reply in some manner to clarify or ask a follow-up question, whereas a robocall may reply with “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that.”

If the latter happens, simply hang up. You can also use the time-tested approach of not answering unknown numbers that show up on your caller ID and let these calls go to voicemail. While this is often a safe approach, there may, of course, be times when you’re expecting a call back from a bank or other institution with an 800 number prefix.

Still unsure about whether to pick up certain 800-number calls? Then make it a point to bookmark on your smartphone and computer, which contains a collection of valid and trustworthy toll-free numbers.

Avoid Robocallers and Enjoy Your Dinner in Peace

Like them or hate them, robocalls have no doubt become more sophisticated over the years. Thanks to AI, these calls now sound more real than ever before — but that doesn’t mean consumers are falling victim to these old tricks.

So if robocalls are driving you batty, use the aforementioned tips above to quickly determine if it’s a computer calling you and/or a reputable number that deserves your attention.

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