What is a RoboCall?
A RoboCall is an automated call, typically dialed by a computer system or done with a random number generator. Sometimes they are used for political campaigns or not-for-profit organizations. Other times they are used by debt collectors. Debt collectors use automated dialing systems because they are efficient. The Automated RoboCall System can call hundreds, if not thousands, more numbers then a human ever could. This means that there
is a greater chance the Debt Collector can make contact with their target. Once they make contact, the calls will keep coming, sometimes more than 30 in a day!
How do I know if I am receiving a robocall?
The Debt Collectors’ primary target these days, and the one that can get them into trouble, are cellphones. Usually, the robo-call will start off with either an “unknown” or “restricted” phone number. Your caller ID will not identify who it is calling. Recently, I have seen robocalls that actually have a phone number and an individual’s name showing on the caller ID. You answer the phone and their is a few moments of silence and then either an automated message starts or you are connected to a live person or the call disconnects. As soon as you speak into the phone the auto-dialing software knows it has a valid number and you can expect more calls. Some of the programs will advise you to call a number if you are not the person they are trying to reach to have your phone number removed from their system! If any of the above has happened to you, you may be the victim of an auto-dialer or robocall.
What Defense do you have to a RoboCall?
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act or TCPA provides you with protection from excess and harassing robo-calls to your cellphone. The TCPA provides for damages of $500.00 per call and if proven to be willful the damages go up to $1,500.00 per call! The key is that the calls have to be “impermissible.” In the case of a debt collector making RoboCalls there has to be proof that there was no consent for the calls to be received on your cellphone. What that means is that if a Debt Collector were to make illegal RoboCall your cellphone 10 times, you could file a lawsuit under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act in Federal Court and if successful be awarded damages between $5,000.00 and $15,000.00! Also, if you are successful, they will be paying your attorney’s fees. This per call damage scheme is supposed to deter illegal robo-calls, but it really doesn’t because most people don’t know their rights and the illegal callers get away with it far more often then they are caught!
The key issue in a TCPA Case will be Consent!
In 2008 the Federal Communication Commission made a determination that “Consent” meant prior written consent from the consumer to allow creditors to contact them on their cellphone. The FCC declaratory order put the burden on the creditor to establish that they had consent, as they were presumed to be in the best position to do so. The important thing to remember here is if you are receiving harassing robo-calls to your cellphone they may be illegal if the caller never had your consent to contact you on your cellphone!
Debt Collectors may claim they had the right to contact you on your cellphone because your cellphone number was the one you used for your credit application. Many times if that is the case they can call you, unless at some point you revoked that consent and they continued to call. That is why it is important to speak with a consumer rights attorney who can assist you in evaluating your specific situation.
Things you can do to try and stop harassing RoboCalls
If you think you are the victim of robocalls, then you should start documenting these calls. Make a log of the date, time and number you are receiving calls from. Take a photo or screenshot of your cellphone when the call is coming in or of your call log on your phone. Keep all of your cellular phone bills, as many times they will be a good record of robocalls you receive. Also, if you miss the call and your voice mail picks up a message from them, save the voice mail, make a back up recording of it. These records, recordings and photos may very well be the evidence that helps prove your case against an illegal RoboCaller.
There may be additional Federal and State law causes of action that come into play with regard to robo-calls. There may be limitations on the time you have to bring a claim against an illegal RoboCall operation. It is also important to contact a consumer rights attorney who can help you determine if you are, in fact, a victim of robo-calling.
Special Notice Regarding Non-Debt Collection Robo-Calls
This post only focused on debt collectors use of robocalls, but there are also potential causes of action for robocalls initiated from other companies to your cellphone. If you are receiving robo-calls from non-debt collectors you should contact a consumer rights attorney immediately to determine if you have a case. You may also have a case if you are receiving unsolicited text messages to your cellphone. If you think you may be receiving unauthorized, unsolicited text messages to your cellphone, contact a consumer rights attorney immediately. If you don’t defend your rights, what is the point of having them?