We may yet be able to turn the tide in the battle against robocalling, the highly unpopular sales practice of blasting consumers with prerecorded telemarketing messages. After issuing an official cry for help, the Federal Trade Commission reports it has received more than 200 ideas for technology-based solutions to the scourge. The FTC regularly sues robocallers for illegally pestering consumers, but the efforts have not been enough to stop the problem. As a result, the agency offered a $50,000 bounty for the best proposal from an innovative entrepreneur or small startup.

More than 200,000 complaints about robocalls are filed every month

Illegal robocalls have proliferated thanks to internet telephony, which makes it cheap and easy for overseas companies to mass dial Americans. There are still more than 200,000 complaints filed every month about robocalls, even though more than 200 million people have added their numbers to the Do Not Call Registry and the practice was all but outlawed in 2009. One company, Asia Pacific, made more than 2.5 billion calls in an 18-month period. The good news is that the FTC's push for solutions has already produced tools for consumers tired of automated sales calls. The Robocall Lookup Tool, available on the App Store, is one such submission that came out of the contest. The deadline for submissions expires on January 18.