Are You Fed Up With Telemarketers? (here's the answer)

Category: Telephony

Yes, it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it so the rest of us can enjoy the benefits of living in a civilized society. I’m talking about actually talking to telemarketers. Why? To sue them, of course! Here's how it works, and some tips on getting relief (I'm talking real money here) from those annoying telemarketing and robocalls…

Tired of Telemarketers? Take Action!

Quite a few people have suffered the indignity of having a conversation with a telemarketer, in order to gather enough information to sue their persecutors. And more often than not these heroes have realized substantial monetary awards.

The world record may belong to Ms. Araceli King, who was awarded $229,500 in her federal lawsuit against Time-Warner Cable a few years ago. TWC robocalled her cell phone number over 153 times trying to reach a “Luis Perez” who previously owned that phone number and was behind on his cable bill. King told TWC repeatedly that she wasn’t Perez and asked that the calls stop, but they didn’t.

Even after she filed the lawsuit, TWC robocalled her 73 more times. The judge in this case awarded King $1,500 per call. That's not chump change!

How to Sue Telemarketers

On a smaller scale, my friend, Dave, sued a finance company that called him just once, for a total of $2,500. Colorado’s do-not-call law holds liable anyone who “makes or causes to be made” a telemarketing call to someone on the list. So Dave sued the caller, her manager, the company’s VP of sales, its president, and the corporate “person” for $500 each. Within 24 hours of serving five small claims court summonses at the firm’s HQ, he got a $1,000 settlement check in exchange for about an hour’s worth of work and $35 paid to a process server. That’s a pretty good return on his investment!

Finding multiple $500 causes of action in a single telemarketing call is the key to making lawsuits worthwhile. Many consumers know that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 gives consumers the right to sue for damages when they receive phone calls that violate the Act. But most people mistakenly believe their damages are limited to $500 per call. In fact, it’s $500 per violation, and most illegal calls contain several violations.

The TCPA established the national Do Not Call Registry. If you put your phone number on the do-not-call list, all telemarketers have 31 days to scrub your number from their call lists. If you get more than one telemarketing call after that, it’s worth $500.

FCC Rules Limiting Telemarketers and Robocalls

If you're not feeling litigious, there are other steps you can take to stop unwanted phone calls. See my article Choose Your Weapon in the Robocall Wars. Check it out for tips on how to block unwanted calls on your landline, VoIP, or smartphone.

The FCC rules implementing the TCPA were updated in October 2013, to tighten protections for consumers. Unfortunately, political and charitable telemarketing calls are still immune. The following restrictions apply only to “for-profit” calls.

All regulated telemarketing calls to landline or cellphone numbers, except those that are manually dialed and do not contain a recorded message, are now prohibited without the consumer’s prior written consent. Note that your number does not have to be on the Do Not Call registry to be protected against automated or even partially automated calls.

The “established business relationship” loophole has been eliminated, so a company can no longer harass you for 18 months after your last dealing with it. If you get an unwanted “follow-up” call, say you don’t want any further calls. If you get one, that’s another $500.

But wait, there’s more money in each call! If the telemarketer blocks his caller-ID, that’s another violation worth $500. If he doesn’t state the name of his company at the beginning of the call, that’s another $500. If he does not provide his phone number at the beginning of the call, that’s another $500. If a telemarketer won’t give his physical address, that’s another $500 If you request a written copy of his “do not call list policy” and don’t receive it in a reasonable amount of time, that’s another $500.

The FCC rules change also gave consumers the right to sue in federal court; previously, TCPA violations had to be adjudicated in State courts, most often small claims courts. That lifts jurisdictional restrictions and caps on damages; the sky is the limit, as Ms. King demonstrated with TWC.

It’s usually easy to find several thousand dollars’ worth of damages in a single telemarketer’s call. You just have to take good notes and give the caller enough rope to hang himself. That means (ugh!) talking to a live telemarketer.

Do a Little Digging...

Your objective is to get as much information out of the telemarketer as possible without revealing any sensitive information about yourself. Your strategy should be to sound interested in whatever the caller is selling; that keeps him talking while you ask questions. If you sound like a “live one” you’ll eventually talk to an employee of the company you want to sue. It may take several rounds of calls to get that person on the line.

Now you can double your money by suing the telemarketing firm and its client, the business that hired the telemarketer. You can triple your damages to $1,500 per violation if the violation(s) are deemed to be “willful.” Time-Warner Cable tried to claim that it didn’t know Araceli King was not its deadbeat customer; the judge ruled that TWC had plenty of notice, and failed to act upon it.

It’s usually unnecessary to go to court if you have well-documented evidence of TCPA violations. A hefty letter to a company’s CEO containing all the evidence that you intend to present to a court and the total damages that you intend to claim will generally draw a swift settlement offer. You may have to rebut bogus claims like TWC’s “we didn’t know” nonsense. Just ignore threats of countersuits and other empty bluster. Declare a deadline for settling and stick to it.

If you decide to proceed with your own lawsuit, the place to file is in Small Claims court. NOLO is a well-respected source for do-it-yourself legal guides, and they have a comprehensive set of Q&A's on how the Small Claims process works. It covers questions such as "Where should I file my small claims lawsuit?," "How much can I sue for in small claims court?," and "What should I do to prepare my small claims case?"

For additional details on the TCPA and tips for successfully suing telemarketers, see Steve Ostrow’s book, How To Sue A Telemarketer: A Manual For Restoring Peace On Earth One Phone Call At A Time. Ostrow is a former trial attorney and small-claims court judge who now does stand-up comedy impersonating Kramer from the TV series, “Seinfeld.” His book and Web site are amusing as well as informative. You can read portions of the book via the Preview feature at Amazon.

Have you ever taken action against a telemarketer? Tell me about it! Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Are You Fed Up With Telemarketers? (here's the answer)"

(See all 31 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Bill C
31 Jul 2019

How about the good old answering machine?

I NEVER answer the phone; if they don't leave a message than it wasn't important.


Posted by:

HowardL
31 Jul 2019

Somehow telemarketers have hijacked local phone numbers. These phony numbers appear in Caller ID, so I pick up. I don't know what telemarketers get out of it except a pissed-off noncustomer.

Does anyone here know how a local number is taken over and then used as the calling one?

Howard


Posted by:

jeff
31 Jul 2019

These calls are vexxing, but most of the calls I get are not from legitimate organizations who cannot be easily taken to small claims court. I mean, if they are spoofing their caller-id number, they are way to ephemeral for me to gather any info that would allow me to take them to court.

What needs to happen is the service providers must be held accountable. The technology exists to make this a non-problem. It just doesn't serve "Big Phona" to do so...yet. The company that actually routes the call to your phone should be liable if they route a call that has not been authenticated. Same with intermediary companies. The company accepting the original call should be held liable if they have not authenticated the call before passing it off. If you get a junk call and it has been authenticated all the way to your phone, you have the info you need to sue the pants off the originator.


Posted by:

Dennis Small
31 Jul 2019

Bob: Yes, the telemarketers are back calling and calling, especially cell numbers.Have you looked into or possibly have enough information to continue your writing about these people who are "skip-jacking" (I believe that is the correct term) where they have identified a one part line with call forwarding feature programmed. Then by calling that number and quickly flashing the switch hook on their end, they are able to engage the second telephone number and dial out of the central office.
The resident with the originating telephone number only hears two or three rings and then nothing on their end. The fraudster has seized the working line and completed a free long distance call and proceeds to ply their craft to unsuspecting elderly customers.


Posted by:

Dave
31 Jul 2019

Go to www.nomorobo.com and get started blocking robocalls. We did it for our landline and most of the robocalls are intercepted. You just enter your phone number and what local phone company provides your service. Not all of them provide the blocking service but ours does. Once you follow the simple setup online, you're done. If it's a robocall our phone rings once and stops. That's all there is to it. The service is free!


Posted by:

Fred
31 Jul 2019

Sorry Bob but this makes no sense at all.
A prior article here was on the same subject more or less.
Readers commented that probably the best solution overall would be to NEVER answer a call from someone you didn't know because that person would realize that you answered thus validating that your number was a good working number. They then sell your working number to a database of robo outfits multiplying the calls from robo monsters.
Folks...just don't answer. If you're not sure, let your answering machine do what it was invented for.


Posted by:

Robinoz
31 Jul 2019

Because of the nuisance of hoax and marketing calls, I abandoned my landline over 10 years ago and now only use my mobile phone (Australia).

Before doing so, I used an answering system to answer every call and then chose the calls I wanted to delete or answer.

Now with the mobile phone, when I get the rare SMS message telling me I've won zillions, I simply block the number. That works for me.


Posted by:

David
31 Jul 2019

All of this is if a company in the USA calls - how many are from the USA? I'll bet less than 1%.
You can't do any of this if they are in Bangladesh etc. which are 99.5% of the calls.
Lets make bank robbery Illegal, then nobody would rob a bank... Same philosophy


Posted by:

Franklin Brown
31 Jul 2019

only problem is that all my calls come from overseas. Multiple times I have asked him where they are from and they always say Georgia. The only way to stop the calls is to block overseas calling. They've even figured out how to put a local phone number in. When you dial it, it doesn't go anywhere.


Posted by:

Robert A.
31 Jul 2019

I have a friend who swears by this, and he claims it has cut his received robocalls to zero. He recorded an old AT&T out-of-service message off the internet that anyone of a certain age probably remembers hearing some years ago, on a misdial, where a recorded female voice says, following three obnoxious, loud tones: (bee-Bah_BAH) "I'm sorry, the number you have dialed, area code XXX-XXX-XXXX is no longer in service...please check the number you are dialing, or ask an operator for assistance"

Supposedly, those three tones, preceding the spoken message are a signal to a robo machine that the call won't go through, and to not bother to leave a message. He was able to get recordings of all the spoken numbers from one through zero, and reedited the message using his own phone number, and placed it on his phone's answering device, instead of the one recorded from the internet, although any set of numbers would work, as the robo machine supposedly only understanding the three tones, and not any human speech following the tones. He tells family and friends who call to wait until the message has finished before leaving their own message, as his machine will really not reject their calls.


Posted by:

Brian B
31 Jul 2019

My landline phone shows caller ID, has an answering machine, and has the ability to allocate different ring tones to different numbers. Any number saved in its phone book has a certain ring, all unknown numbers have another. When the phone rings with the unknown ring tone, I do not even get up from my chair. I let the call go through to the answering machine. If the call was important, they will leave a message.


Posted by:

Peter Oh
01 Aug 2019

I have several Robo calls per day.
In Australia we have "Do Not Call" legislation which in practice turns out to be useless.
Almost all calls originate from the Phillipines or some other (generally Asian) country. you can ask for caller details but that just results in a hang up. No one seems to be accountable for these gross intrusions & I have no idea how you might attempt a case to sue for compensation. Many land lines now are based on broadband capability so traditional carriers do not need to do anything.


Posted by:

Cat
01 Aug 2019

Brian B, tell me what landline phone does this.

I had to block my own phone number (and name) from incoming spoofed caller-id. THAT'S how nuts this has become.


Posted by:

Fred
01 Aug 2019

Very disconcerting when I saw that I was apparently calling me with my own number 17 times within 30 minutes. The next day it was down to 11 times plus angry calls from others screaming at me to stop calling their number!


Posted by:

Brian B
01 Aug 2019

@ Cat. It's a feature of my cordless Uniden phone/answering machine. It worked on my old copper wire connection, and now also on a fibre optic connection.


Posted by:

Argee
01 Aug 2019

Get the RoboKiller app! It's a TOTAL RIOT! I even recorded my own custom AnswerBot. I had one idiot caller have a conversation with my Answerbot for over 3 minutes. My AnswerBot even looped back and started over from the beginning and the idiot caller was still talking to my recording. ROFLM**O


Posted by:

Martok
02 Aug 2019

I use the CPR CallBlocker and it has 1000's of known telemarketer numbers blocked builtin to it, especially overseas. You can block a obvious caller with a push of a big red button, poof they are gone - LOL. Also you can manually block out whole exchanges like 303-404-xxxx, by entering "303404" or you can block all 303 numbers by entering "303". This is for a landline only.

You can get them on Amazon, or Ebay, it's well worth to see when they are automatically blocked and they also rotate many different numbers, I finally got this under control!

Also you carrier may have a system where the telemarketer has to enter a number to connect to your phone, and telemarketers don't have the ability to do this.

MagicJack also has this feature - so in effect I have a "phone firewall" - LOL

So I laugh at the morons who try to call me!


Posted by:

Steve
03 Aug 2019

Suing these vultures may be satisfying. But so is blocking their call. NOMOROBO has been doing an excellent job for me using a VOIP phone.


Posted by:

Michtrixie
04 Aug 2019

I normally let calls I don't recognize go to voicemail. Sometimes, if I'm feeling especially annoyed with the calls, I answer the phone, "FBI, how may I help you? They always quickly hang up and I get a good laugh.


Posted by:

Stop Calling Me
06 Aug 2019

Getting a dozen robocalls daily for years now. My Sentry 10,000 number capacity one ring hangup analog landline call blocker device does a good job. But because these scammers just spoof a new number every time, my blocked number list simply keeps growing and growing and growing. I've repeatedly requested from Xfinity Comcast, an option to automatically reject all calls which originate from overseas. I have no reason to talk to anyone outside of the USA for any reason what so ever and due to the risk, I won't even sign up for anything from a company whom uses overseas call center services. There have been articles out that the same csr people in some countries like India, turn round around from that day job and then call you again from their other job and scam you out of data and dollars. This article is worthy and interesting, but I don't deal with live or legitimate companies, just years and years of never ending foreign scam artists, robocalls, and automatic hang ups. So much I don't even say hello anymore, since less than 1 in 20 calls is a live caller. I do not talk to robots and the most offensive call out there is not the human scammer, but rather a robotic interface pretending to be human. Thank you for reading.


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