There is a new way to deal with annoying telemarketers who try to scam you, and it’s affordable at just $24.99 per year. It’s called Jolly Roger, a telephone service that combines advanced technology to create fake characters and scripts to keep telemarketers on the line for as long as possible.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Jolly Roger uses ChatGPT and voice modulation software to act as different fictional characters, like a bumbling senior citizen or a distracted mother, wasting the scammers’ time and bringing satisfaction to the phone owner.
Jolly Roger has been around for seven years and recently added ChatGPT capabilities. This has resulted in telemarketers being kept on the phone for up to 30 minutes, as reported by Roger Anderson, one of the company’s founders, to Insider.
By subscribing to the service, users gain access to a cloud-based phone system and accompanying apps to view, listen to, and share recorded calls between the bot and the frustrated telemarketer. They can even create their own annoying characters.
Scam calls have been increasing since 2016, when Jolly Roger was founded. In February 2016, there were 2.28 billion spam calls made to US consumers, which escalated to 5.19 billion by January 2019 and peaked at 5.66 billion in October 2019.
According to YouMail’s robocall index, there were 4.7 billion spam calls in November 2022 and 5.08 billion in May of this year.
Anderson and his business partner Steve Berkson manage Jolly Roger while working day jobs in the telecommunications industry. With the integration of ChatGPT, they can automate and diversify the process, creating more characters and scenarios to keep telemarketers engaged.
“The old process involved sitting at a microphone while Steve or I would talk the talent through the phrases we needed,” Anderson said, referring to when the company would hire actual actual voice actors to record a series of scripts.
Jolly Roger uses a powerful chatbot to generate scripts, which are then read aloud by Play.HT, an AI-powered text-to-voice generator that mimics the chosen character’s voice. The team has received help from friends and family to create these personas. For example, the voice of Whitey Whitebeard is actually Sid Berkson, Berkson’s father, who provided a 45-second audio sample for Play.HT to replicate his voice.
“I had to experiment with superprompts because the system initially said ‘as a helpful AI model, it’s not in my nature to waste time,'” Anderson said. “We eventually tuned the superprompts and got the bots to be the right amount of helpful but also funny and engaging.”
At first, there were some challenges in getting ChatGPT to cooperate when asked to “waste time,” but the team overcame them through trial and error. While Jolly Roger can only keep a fraction of active scam callers occupied, its integration of AI comes at a time when the US government is taking action against call centers flooding consumers with robocalls.
The Anti-Robocall Multistate Litigation Task Force was established last year and filed a lawsuit against an Arizona-based company for making 7.5 billion robocalls to people on the National Do Not Call Registry.
As long as unidentified and dubious calls continue to exist, Jolly Roger will strive to alleviate the annoyance caused by telemarketers.