Austin (KXAN) – Dan Graham says his phone is constantly ringing and beeping.
“I will probably receive, on any given day, an average of 10,” Graham said of the number of unwanted calls and texts he receives. “I counted one day, in fact…I got 24 that day.”
Most of it, he said, comes from scam phone numbers that sell insurance, extend warranties, and offer student loan forgiveness.
He listed his number in the National Do Not Call Registry (DNC), which was set up to stop unwanted sales calls, but said it didn’t make a difference.
Since he splits his time between Dallas and Austin for work, and travels a lot, it’s not possible for Graham to ignore all the unknown numbers.
“With two kids and a wife now living in another city, not answering the phone when I get a strange call is not an option, especially because these guys are now starting to spoof phone numbers,” Graham explained.
The financial accounting advisor began filing complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission, but said there was no relief.
“I started pushing. I was going to stay on the line until I find the company behind it, and then file a BBB complaint. I’ve probably made over two dozen BBB complaints and got nowhere, just more frustrated,” he said.
Last April, Graham filed his first lawsuit in Travis County against a company in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
“In an effort to address an increasing number of telemarketing calls, Congress in 1991 enacted the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA),” according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Restricts telemarketing calls and the use of automatically dialed or pre-recorded calls or texts.
In 2012, the FCC said the agency revised the rules to require telemarketers, “(1) to obtain the express prior written consent of consumers before being automated, (ii) to not allow telemarketers to use an ‘established business relationship’. “To avoid obtaining consent from consumers when they are on their home phones, and (iii) require telemarketers to provide an automated and interactive “opt-out” mechanism during each automated call so that consumers can immediately tell the telemarketer to stop calling.”
File a lawsuit against telemarketers
“It went from just calls saying, ‘Hey, we want to sell you a car… we want to sell insurance,’ to text messages that I would say is blatant fraud. I won an iPad, or you know,” he explained. You’ve won an iPhone” or “your phone is infected and you need to download this antivirus, “stuff like that”.
Graham has filed about 50 small claims cases in Travis County and several others in North Texas and said he raised about $75,000 in settlements.
“We have some that simply say “Hey, we don’t really care. We’ll keep doing what we want. No apology, nothing. We also have another company, this is probably my favourite, we took them to court and they called us, their legal advisor called us and said, “First of all, thank you. We understand that you are suing us, but we had no idea our affiliate marketing companies would engage in this kind of behaviour. We divorced them immediately, we ended the relationship.”
He said about 10 companies have changed the way they approach this type of marketing.
“I really think the law was written specifically for this kind of situation, when we see that our regulators are confused, we are the ones who are being harassed, and we can really stand up and do something about it,” Graham explained.
In a recent report to Congress, the FTC said more than 244 million consumers have placed their phone numbers in the DNC registry over the past two years.
The report also showed that there were more than five million complaints in 2021 with people overwhelmingly reporting violations from bot calls.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) noted that “Imposter scams and scam calls for security protection have led to the list of commonly reported call topics.”
Since the pandemic, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has stated that the agency has received more than 18,000 non-contact complaints related to COVID, according to the report.
The Federal Communications Commission said in March that it had taken strict enforcement action. The agency issued the largest fine in the history of the Federal Communications Commission — a $225 million fine against telemarketers in Texas for illegally rigging nearly one billion automated calls to sell short-term, limited-term health insurance plans.
The agency said the automated calls falsely claimed to offer health insurance plans from well-known health insurance companies. Cessation and discontinuation messages were also delivered to six voice service providers who consistently violated guidelines for the use of auto-dialed and pre-recorded voice message calls.
“We can make this kind of endless spam untenable.”
Graham got some relief from calls and texts after the lawsuits.
“I would get to the company line and the company would say ‘You know, you got banned,’ and so I got a lot of that. I even asked the telemarketer to get back on the line and he said, ‘Okay, looks like you’re blacklisted,'” he said. Also some types of calls dwindle.”
Graham explained that anyone receiving these calls and texts should report to the FTC and find out the company behind them, then write comments and post what happened on social media.
He said Travis County has made the application process consumer-friendly and you can do a lot more online.
“If people knew how to back off and started doing it, we could make this kind of endless spam unbearable for the people who do,” he explained. “The hope is that there are enough of us who stand up, start to fall back, and it becomes more expensive for companies to hire these telemarketers by neglecting to engage in telemarketing practices…”