Recover damages for annoying robocalls

Historic City News subscribers who continue to receive annoying telemarketing robocalls after listing themselves on the federal Do Not Call List and on the state Do Not Call List has a clear and straightforward method to recover damages.  Did you know you could get money to help ease the continuing aggravation?

There’s a little-known law that’s bringing some people big payouts. In a public broadcast on WJXT last week, Navy veteran Jimmy White of Jacksonville told investigative reporter Vic Micolucci that he was sick of all the robocalls that he was receiving and that he had decided to fight back.

“I usually just let them talk. They’ve got a lot to say, they’ve got a sales pitch. They’ve got a script that they want to run through. So I let them talk, and I’ll play interested,” White explained, claiming that he made thousands of dollars in about a year from answering those pesky and illegal robocalls.  “I’ve made $14,500, so far, and still have a $6000 judgment that I need to collect.”

Robocalls aren’t all the same. Some are recorded messages.  Others can be a live person who bought your contact information, or they can be a salesperson that uses an automatic dialer to randomly call you.  While they often use overseas call centers to place the calls, there is usually an American company behind the sale.  White, who has earned more than $20,000 from telemarketers, says that is the company that he is interested in identifying.

Once White made up his mind to act, he began searching for experts who could mentor him rather than hiring an attorney to prosecute every telephone call.  His research introduced him to a consumer advocate who literally wrote the book on how to make telemarketers pay.

“I was getting 15 to 20 calls a day, just like everybody else,” consumer advocate Doc Compton explained.  “The difference with me was that I knew about the Telephone Consumers Protection Act — the federal statute that could be used to hold these robocallers accountable.”

According to Compton, Congress says you can get $500 per unwanted call or text. And, if you’re on the National Do Not Call Registry, that amount doubles.  In Florida, there are additional penalties of up to $5000, but you must find out who is behind the call before you can try and collect.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act was originally thought to only cover calls to cell phones.  However, according to recent court decisions, a section of the statute has been shown to cover calls to your landline telephone, assuming it’s been registered with the National Do Not Call Registry for at least 31 days.

Anyone who wants to protect their privacy and prosecute violations of the Act by telemarketers should register their wireless and landline telephone numbers with Florida and the National Do Not Call Registry.  That service is currently free.  If you continue to receive robocalls,

  • Document everything
  • Ask for a call back number
  • Ask for a website
  • Get the caller to email you a proposal

Compton sells a $47 instructional kit that breaks down the Act, in layman’s terms, and gives customers the documents and letter templates they need for better success through his website,  White decided to try it and purchased one.  To his surprise and delight, the instructional kit worked and worked very well.  He says that he used the information to collect his first damages check.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, from September 2020 to September 2021 in Florida, there were 424,398 total National Do Not Call Registry complaints made to the FTC.

  • Robocaller: 297,402
  • Live Caller: 96,005

Here’s a breakdown of the topics of those unwanted calls from September 2020 to September 2021 in Florida:

  • Imposters: 43,602
  • Warranty and protection plans: 42, 098
  • Medical and prescriptions: 12,169
  • Reducing debt: 11,729
  • Energy, solar and utilities: 6,391
  • Computer and tech support: 4,768
  • Vacation and timeshares: 2,555
  • Lotteries, prizes, and sweepstakes: 1,303
  • Home improvement and cleaning: 1,215
  • Money making opportunities: 804
  • Home security and alarms: 752

Robocalls that are legal: Under FTC rules, some robocalls do not require your permission:

  • Messages that are purely informational. Robocalls about your flight being canceled, reminding you about an appointment, or letting you know about a delayed school opening fall into this category, if the caller doesn’t also try to sell you something.
  • Debt collection calls. A business contacting you to collect a debt can use robocalls to reach you. But robocalls that try to sell you services to lower your debt are illegal and are almost certainly scams.
  • Political calls.
  • Calls from some health care providers. This includes a robocall from a pharmacy reminding you to refill a prescription.
  • Messages from charities. Charities can make these calls to you themselves. But if a charity hires someone to make robocalls on its behalf, unless you are a prior donor or member of the charity, the robocall is illegal. They also must include an automated option to let you stop future calls.