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Fort Pierce man turns the tables on telemarketers and cashes in

Jonathan Smith says he's collected nearly $40,000 from robocallers who violated Telephone Consumer Protection Act
A Palm Beach County resident receives a robocall on Oct. 27, 2021.jpg
Posted at 12:46 PM, Oct 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-28 23:48:47-04

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — They're annoying, invasive and nearly impossible to stop.  

Fed up with the calls, Fort Pierce resident Jonathan Smith is fighting back against those bothersome robocalls.

"I'm cashing in on them. I'm cashing in on them for sure," Smith said. "Every dollar that I get, I look at it as, that's a dollar less than they had." 

Smith said he's collected nearly $40,000 from telemarketers calling and violating the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act.    

Congress passed the TCPA in 1991 "to address a growing number of telephone marketing calls," according to the Federal Communications Commission.  

"A robocall trying to sell you something is illegal unless the company trying to sell you something got written permission, directly from you, to call you that way," according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Smith credits Doc Compton, the founder of Robocalls.Cash, with teaching him how to cash in on the calls for less than $50 using his kit.

 Jonathan Smith of Fort Pierce is fighting back against those bothersome robocalls, collecting some $40,000 from companies using telemarketers

"The only way to stop the calls is to make these guys pay," Compton said. "What we as consumers can collect is roughly $500 to $3,000 per call, depending on the violations."

Attorney David Lamos is working with Smith and WPTV asked him why the telemarketers are writing the checks so easily.

"Because the cost of not writing them is greater," Lamos said. "They would rather pay small amounts of compensation per call on negotiation than get dragged into court."

Lamos said the first step for consumers looking to fight back is to get on the National Do Not Call Registry to set up a line of protection.

"If you're on the Do Not Call Registry, if they've gotten your name from a list and the list has been sold and resold to others who continue to use it and use the robocall autodialing system and you're able to show those patterns, it's like shooting fish in a barrel," Lamos said.    

The FCC reports that consumers received nearly 4 billion robocalls per month last year.  

The FCC also claims to have recently issued $450 million in fines "against telemarketers for apparent illegal caller ID spoofing," where calls appear to be from local numbers.  

The Federal Trade Commission also reported consumers made more than 500,000 complaints from Florida since January 2020.  

“Florida is definitely a hotbed for telemarketers," Compton said.

HOW TO STOP ROBOCALLS:

How to stop robocalls

State Sen. Bobby Powell said he gets about 10 robocalls daily.

"It really does become a nuisance and it's rather annoying," Powell said.    

Powell co-sponsored the legislation, SB 1120, which Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law toughening the state’s existing telemarketing laws.  
"The bill creates a private right of action to enforce the law and the aggrieved party may actually receive monetary damages or up to $500, whichever is greater," Powell said. "We wanted to make sure that we put something in law that would allow for those of us here in the state of Florida who are tired of being annoyed or being at a nuisance by these calls to go after these individuals."

Despite the law, Smith said his phone continues to ring and the checks keep coming.

"The laws are working, but not enough people are taking and utilizing them," Smith said. "If everyone would do their part, these companies would be put out business quickly."

Here are some links to learn more about robocalls and what you can do about them from the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission.

You can register for the National Do Not Call Registry by clicking here.