Joe Kukura

You may be at wit's end with marketing robocalls, but the Federal Trade Commission is really putting its money where its mouth is. Hoping to end the scourge of illegal robocalls that violate the national Do Not Call registry, the FTC is offering a $50,000 prize to any techie, innovator or hacker who can devise some technological means of snuffing these political and marketing-related robocalls before they ring up your mobile or landline phone.

The FTC, who own and maintain the federal Do Not Call registry, are well aware that robocallers have found effective means around this safeguard. The FTC claims to handle more than two million complaints per year regarding Do Not Call violations. Now they're turning to the general public, and offering serious prize money.

Opportunity is calling, telephony tinkerers, as the FTC is offering a $50,000 prize to stop robocalls. David Vladeck, the head of the FTC consumer protection bureau, tells the Associated Press that the FTC "is attacking illegal robocalls on all fronts, and one of the things that we can do as a government agency is to tap into the genius and technical expertise among the public."

"The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is challenging innovators to create solutions that will block illegal robocalls," they say on the FTC Robocall Challenge web site. "These solutions should block robocalls on landlines and mobile phones and can operate on a proprietary or non-proprietary device or platform. Entries can be proposed technical solutions or functional solutions and proofs of concept."

These days, many robocallers use an "autodial" technology that can crank out millions of calls per hour. Other technological advances make these calls exceptionally difficult to trace.

"The vast majority of telephone calls that deliver a prerecorded message trying to sell something to the recipient are illegal," The FTC says. "As technology has advanced over the years, so have the number of illegal robocalls."

The rules of this robocall-killing contest are pretty strict. The solution cannot block political calls, nor can it block charity calls or calls from health care providers. It also cannot block reverse-911 calls.

The contest begins accepting submissions on October 25, and submissions can continue until January 17, 2013.

Any winning (or non-winning) entries also get to keep the intellectual property rights to their submitted invention or solution. That means one could win the $50,000 prize, and still sell the invention to someone else at a later date.