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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Robocalls can interrupt us multiple times a day. There’s no sugarcoating it, they’re downright annoying.
But now consumers are fighting back.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, unwanted calls are “far and away the biggest consumer complaint.”
“Look at all of these missed calls,” said Jamie Bergstein while scrolling through her phone outside of Philadelphia City Hall, “I get them all the time!”
About 35 billion robocalls are placed to American consumers every year and experts say this “epidemic” is worth a fight.
“All day long I’m hitting ignore on my phone while I’m trying to work,” said consumer rights attorney Todd Friedman.
He spoke with Eyewitness News on Friday and explained that even one call using an automatic, robotic dialing system is a violation of the Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Even non-recorded calls break the law, if you are registered on the National Do Not Call list.
“The first time you get one of these calls it’s pretty much going to be a violation,” he said. “The big problem is going to be how you find these people and that’s the hardest part.”
The challenge of finding out who exactly is behind the call has increased as telemarketers have evolved to using “spoof” numbers.
These numbers will imitate a local area code and familiar numbers, which can make it seem like the call may be coming from someone you know.
“We just moved here, so I don’t know if its an emergency or a doctor’s visit or something like that. It’s just annoying,” Bergstein said.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act prohibits robocalls to your phone if you have not previously provided your consent.
“That provides you with a private right of action to file a lawsuit against these guys, and if you can find out who they are, its $500 to $1,500 per call,” Friedman said.
That’s right, $500 to $1,500 per call that companies can be forced to pay if a lawsuit is won.
Recently, a man from the Philadelphia area embarked on a journey to do just that.
According to court records, Andrew Perrong, originally from Montgomery County, has filed dozens of lawsuits against companies who have called him without consent.
His collective monetary awards have not been disclosed.
Friedman added that if you are dead set on a lawsuit, before contacting a consumer attorney, try and find out a company name.
For the brave, he suggests one method; answering the call, and playing along while trying to get as much information as possible without giving any of yours.