You Can Get $500 If An Autodialer Calls Your Cellphone

Your cellphone rings from a number you don’t recognize. You pick it up. At first there’s silence. Then the sound of a call center kicks in and a person asks, “Hello, can I speak to Karen?” It’s a telemarketer, or a debt collector, using an autodialer. And they just broke the law. And just for funsies, you can collect $500 or $1500 with just a few hours of work if you go after them.

Columnist Phil Baker for The Daily Transcript found this out when he started investigating a series of annoying calls made to his cellphone from a particular number. When he picked up, he got a recorded voice telling him to “wait for an important message” or silence and then a hangup. He spoke with a lawyer to find out what the law was regarding these calls. What did he learn?

“A consumer debt collector is allowed to call a debtor [on their home landline] using an autodialer,” Baker writes. “However, they are in violation of the law if an autodialer is used when making a collection call to a cellphone belonging to the debtor or any third party, or making a call to any telephone number not belonging to the debtor (as in my case), unless the debt collector has the prior written consent of the recipient.”

The violation carries a statutory penalty of $500 for an unintentional breach, and $1500 if the caller knowingly broke the law. If you want to collect your easy cash, just spend a couple of hours total with the small claims court (here’s how) and you’ve got money in the bank.

Businesses behaving badly [The Daily Transcript]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.