I-TEAM: How to sue a telemarketer

The News4JAX I-TEAM is teaching you how to turn unwanted Robocalls from telemarketers into cash in your pocket. There’s a little-known law that’s bringing some people big payouts — just ask a Jacksonville military veteran who has earned more than $20,000 so far.

The News4JAX I-TEAM is teaching you how to turn unwanted Robocalls from telemarketers into cash in your pocket. There’s a little-known law that’s bringing some people big payouts — just ask a Jacksonville military veteran who has earned more than $20,000 so far.

From telemarketers trying to sell him an extended warranty to internet service, Navy veteran Jimmy White was sick of all the robocalls. White decided to fight back and hit them where it hurts: their bank accounts.

“So, what’s your total? What have you made?” asked I-TEAM investigator Vic Micolucci.

“$14,500 with $6000 in a judgment that I still need to collect,” answered White.

He made thousands of dollars in about a year — all from answering those pesky and illegal robocalls.

Robocalls aren’t all the same. Some are recorded messages while others can be a live person who bought your contact info or a third-party salesperson that uses an autodialer to randomly call you. While they often use overseas call centers, there’s usually an American company behind it — and that’s what White is after.

“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 let them talk. And I’ll play interested,” White explained.

The Navy veteran says he learned what to do from his mentor, consumer advocate Doc Compton and owner and creator of Robocalls.cash.

Compton literally wrote the book on how to make telemarketers pay.

“I was getting 15 to 20 calls a day, just like everybody else. But the difference with me is that I actually knew about a federal statute that could be used to hold these Robocallers accountable,” Compton explained. “And I decided to try it, instead of doing it, you know, using an attorney just as a consumer. And to my surprise and delight, I suppose it actually worked and worked very well.”

Compton sells a $47 kit, which breaks down the Telephone Consumers Protection Act and gives customers documents and letter templates for better success.

RELATED LINKS: National Do Not Call List | Florida Do Not Call List

But the good news: You don’t have to spend a dime if you don’t want to. Long story short, 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 up to $5,000, but you must find out who is behind the call before you can try and collect. Because of that, Compton says:

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

Eventually, Compton says many will lead to an actual U.S.-based company. Then, the choice is yours: either sue or send a demand letter offering to settle.

“And believe it or not, more often than not, these guys just want to settle because it’s way more expensive and problematic for them to actually end up in court,” Compton said. “Many times, these guys go to great lengths to hide their identities. They don’t want to be found out.”

If there is a settlement, Compton says you and the company agree on an amount and then they cut you a check.

You may not believe you can make money this way — White didn’t either until he tried it and the checks started rolling in.

While in Vic’s interview with White, the phone rang, said it was a recorded line, and a man named “Tom” said he was from the warranty division. “Tom” connects to another woman — who works for a Florida-based company.

“We do have a payment plan option. How that works as you’re simply going to put down $299,” the woman said.

White says he’s going to send her bosses a letter — that could cost them thousands — because he says this company is a repeat offender.

“Ever feel bad about this? Or feel guilty?” Vic asked.

“No,” said White. “I put my number on the federal Do Not Call List and on the state Do Not Call List. I don’t want to be bothered. I have a life. But if they’re gonna bother me, I’m going to do my part to help enforce the law as Congress intended.”

White says if enough people fight back, the telemarketers might think twice.

“What’s the ultimate goal here?” asked Vic.

“To stop the Robocallers. To get them to comply with the law,” answered White.

“Do Not Call Registry” complaints in Florida

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.

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.