If money is a little tight these days, there’s a side hustle that’s helping some consumers: cashing in on robocalls. A little-known law helps you turn those annoying calls into cold hard cash.
"When my phone rings now, I just go, 'cha ching!'" said Scott Taylor, who estimates he's gotten a whopping 6,000 robocalls — and has collected $13,500 from robocallers.
John Watson recently settled his case against a robocaller. A non-disclosure agreement prevents him from telling us how much he was awarded. But he said he was satisfied.
"It had nothing to do with money. It was to make a statement. You just can't treat people like that," Watson said. "If you're going to hit, you have to hit them hard in pocket so that they know that what they did was wrong."
So how did they do it? There’s a federal law that gives you the right to turn those annoying calls into cash. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act makes it illegal for a business to call your phone using an auto dialer without your permission, and every time they do, they could owe you up to $500.
And if your number is on the National Do Not Call Registry or if the company willfully violates the act, they could owe you up to $1,500 per call.
But getting this money isn’t easy.
"This is difficult work. But it's doable work and you can get compensated," said consumer attorney Peter Holland. "And more importantly, in addition to the money, you can put an end to the turmoil."
Holland sues companies that engage in robocalls. Watson hired him and got results.
But there is a way to cash in on robocalls without an attorney: NBC4 found several do-it-yourself kits that walk you through the steps, because the process itself is tedious.
First off, when you get a robocall, you have to answer it.
Get as much information about the company as you can: the company's name, address and callback number.
That’s so you can send them a demand letter. Some of those DIY kits offer templates for the letters.
And make sure you document the call, including all voicemail messages.
"There were so many I couldn’t even keep count," said Leslie Millspaugh, who is currently working with Holland to settle her robocall lawsuit. But her fight isn’t so much about the money. It's about ending the constant torment.
"I was having a hard time even being around people — it was awful," Millspaugh said.
As for Watson, the robocalls have stopped, but the emotional damage they caused won’t go away for a long time.
"I had a stroke, right up there in the hallway, from the stress," he said.
The law also applies to robocalls from debt collectors. And remember: Robocallers might be reluctant to give you information as to who they are because they know it can cost them, so when you speak to them, make sure you are the one getting information about them, and not the other way around.