2015 UPDATE – New federal law allows robocalls to cell phones for collection of federal student loans and mortgages backed by federal programs. Read more here…
No one likes getting calls from debt collectors, especially those annoying robo-dialed calls. You know, those calls that say, “If your name is so-and-so, please press 1”. Or when you get three, four, or more calls a day from the same company. Or even those calls where it takes a long time for someone to start talking after you say hello.
What really stinks is when you get robo-calls to your cell phone. They’re not just annoying… they can cost you money and eat up your available minutes. And… they could be illegal!
Back in 1991, Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Enforced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the TCPA limits all kinds of telemarketing calls, faxes, and text messages. Even though technology has changed a lot since 1991, and millions of Americans have dropped their land lines, the TCPA still provides powerful protection.
In a nutshell, a debt collector CANNOT call your cell phone with an automatic dialer or a recorded (computer generated) message without your prior explicit consent. If they do, you can sue for damages to the tune of $500 per call… up to $1500 per call if you can prove they willfully violated the TCPA.
How can I tell if I am receiving a robo-call?
These days, nearly every call from a telemarketer or debt collector is made with an autodialer. If it sounds like a recording or you have to press a button to speak to a person, it’s obviously a robo-call. But, even those calls where there is an annoying moment of silence before someone starts speaking are covered by the TCPA.
But, I never gave consent for these people to call me!
You may have given consent without realizing it. If you provided your cell phone number as your primary contact number on an application or when making the original purchase that resulted in the debt, it can be considered consent to call that number. The debt collector may also capture your cell number if you use it to call them after receiving a bill or letter in the mail. They can simply claim that they did not know it was a cell phone.
So, how do I stop them?
All you SHOULD have to do is revoke your consent. First, tell the caller you revoke your consent to call your cell phone verbally. Then follow up with a letter sent by certified mail so you have proof you sent it and proof that it was received. Be sure to include your cell number in the letter so there is absolutely no doubt about which number you are revoking consent.
What if the robo calls keep coming?
If you revoke your consent verbally and in writing but the debt collector keeps calling, start keeping notes on who is calling you, what number shows on caller ID, and when they call. Then contact a consumer rights attorney. Many will evaluate your case for free. You can sue for damages or use a potential law suit as leverage to settle a past due account.
If you have any questions, please give us a call at 770-952-5168 or contact us online.
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This information is intended for informational and educational purposes only and not as legal advice. If you have concerns about your credit report, harassment, identity theft, illegal collections activity, garnishments, or property liens, you should consult an attorney who specializes in consumer rights and defense.