HOUSTON – How many times a day does “Rachel” from “card services” call you?
If you feel like you talk to her -- and other robots selling health insurance and auto warranties -- more than you'd like, you are not alone. Unwanted phone calls are the top complaint from consumers to the Federal Trade Commission. Now, there’s a way you can turn those annoying rings into "ka-ching" and make money off of answering robocalls.
“This is one of the rare things that sounds too good to be true, but isn't,” said consumer credit expert Doc Compton.
He was getting between 15 and 20 robocalls a day when he decided to turn the barrage into a business opportunity. He created Robocalls into Cash, a kit with step by step instructions explaining how to get paid for those phone calls that interrupt your work and life. The kit is $47.
Why are people getting paid for robocalls? Read the law. Here's the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991
The Telemarketing Sales Rule of 2003 makes it illegal for any business to call your cellphone using an autodialer without your permission. Every time one does, they owe you no less than $500.
If your cellphone is on the National Do Not Call Registry when they call you using an autodialer, they owe you $1,500.
Scott Taylor of Copperfield used to dread robocalls. Since he started using Compton’s kit, he relishes every one of them.
“When my phone rings now, I just kinda go like 'Cha-ching!'” he told consumer expert Amy Davis.
3 steps to turning robocalls into cash
No more ignoring the calls. You have to answer the robocalls to try to get information about who is calling you. This means you have to act interested in whatever the caller is selling. You are now phishing for their information: the name of the company, a website or physical address.
Use that information to research the company. You need to know the name of the company’s CEO or its registered agent or both.
Send a demand letter to the company. Let them know they violated the TCPA. Compton’s kit includes template letters.
“Believe it or not, because these robocallers don't want to go to court, they don't want to have all their records exposed in a public forum because that brings all kinds of undue scrutiny from the federal agencies and so on, they very often will settle,” Compton said.
Davis followed the three steps above. Within 10 business days of sending a demand letter to an auto warranty company whose representative called her once, she received a check for $750.
Some pitfalls she learned through trial and error
Many robocalls are from flat-out scammers. They are just trying to get your personal information to steal your identity. You won’t be able to get any money from these con artists. These include the robocalls claiming to be from the IRS, Social Security Administration and those that say they can lower your credit card interest rate. Don’t waste your time with these calls.
You will be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement by the robocaller before they will cut you a check. They want to make sure you don’t tell others that they broke the law or how much they paid you for the indiscretion. In some cases, you are also agreeing not to take further legal action once you receive the money.
Compton said his business helps on two fronts: consumers are getting paid by the bad actors and the payouts may discourage businesses from continuing to break the law.
“I've had people ask me, 'If this works as well as people say it does, eventually aren't they going to stop calling?' Yeah. Exactly. That's the hope,” he said.
Compton’s experience working with consumers hounded by debt collectors gave him the know-how to turn robocalls into cash. In theory, you may be able to figure it out on your own without his kit. If you do buy it, you can join his closed Facebook group, where members share information about robocallers and settlements to help one another collect money.