How To Report Robocalls To The FCC & FTC

How To Report Robocalls To The FCC & FTC 2018-07-04T11:54:44+00:00
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Reporting robocalls to the proper authorities is a key step in building a TCPA lawsuit. It's also an important way to help the FTC and FCC in their work punishing robocall violators, reducing the number of harassing phone calls and texts we receive.

  • You may be eligible to file a private robocall lawsuit.
  • Successful plaintiffs can win up to $1,500 per illegal call.
  • Contact an experienced robocall attorney now.

Learn more about case eligibility by completing our online form. Our dedicated attorneys have helped numerous people secure financial compensation pursuing robocall lawsuits.

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There's no excuse for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, but hundreds of businesses and telemarketing companies do it every day. We can help.

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Most robocalls are illegal. Usually made using autodialer systems, these telemarketing calls are certainly annoying, but they could also be valuable. According to federal law, telemarketers and debt collectors need to obtain your prior express written consent before sending you a robocall on your cell phone. Many companies disregard this law, but their misconduct could be worth a lot of money.

How To Stop Robocalls & Take Back Your Privacy

Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a federal law that restricts the use of autodialer systems and prerecorded messages, private individuals like you have the right to file a civil lawsuit for financial damages.

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Every violation of the law is worth at least $500 in court. Let's repeat that. Every illegal telemarketing or debt collection call you get could be worth at least $500 if you file a lawsuit. The damages get even higher when a telemarketer knowingly violates the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. When a company ignores the do-not-call list, it can be worth up to $1,500 in damages, per violation.

So why haven't you contacted an attorney yet?

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Put Your Number On The Do-Not-Call Registry

You can take steps right now to stop illegal robocalls (and spam text messages) and help to hold unscrupulous telemarketers accountable. Here's how.

First things first. Sign up for the National Do-Not-Call Registry. It's a list, managed by the Federal Trade Commission, of phone numbers that telemarketers aren't allowed to call. Putting your number on the Registry should stop most telemarketing calls within a month, since every organization that wants to make unsolicited advertising calls has to comply with it.

Of course, going on the National Do-Not-Call Registry won't stop all telemarketing calls, but any robocalls that you get after putting your number on the list are probably illegal.

Reporting Robocalls

Think you received an illegal robocall? Reporting is easy. Two federal agencies are responsible for implementing and enforcing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act:

  • Federal Communications Commission
  • Federal Trade Commission

You can report the robocall to either of these agencies, but it's best to cover all of your bases, especially if you plan on filing a civil lawsuit over illegal calls. If you're thinking about taking legal action, we suggest that you report every illegal robocall you receive everywhere you can.

File A Do-Not-Call Complaint With The FTC

The Federal Trade Commission manages the National Do-Not-Call (DNC) Registry. So, if you're already on the Registry, but you're still getting telemarketing calls, you should probably report your complaint first to the FTC.

Note, though, that telemarketers and debt collection agencies have up to 31 days to get with the program and remove your number from their call lists. As a result, you can only report a DNC violation after your  number has been on the Registry for at least 31 days. You can report robocalls that use a prerecorded message, however at any time, whether or not you're on the National Do-Not-Call Registry.

Do Not Call Violation Reports

To report a Do-Not-Call violation, visit the Federal Trade Commission's complaint submission form at https://complaints.donotcall.gov/complaint/complaintcheck.aspx. Click "Continue" at the bottom of the page and you'll be prompted to answer a few questions. Just submit your phone number (or the number where the illegal call was placed) and specify when the call was made (check your call history).

Telemarketers are prohibited from making any sales calls (including manually-dialed calls with a live sales representative) before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., your local time. In some cases, the time of a call alone can determine whether it was illegal or not.

Did The Call Include A Prerecorded Message?

Next, you'll have to say whether the call included a recorded message (usually illegal, both on residential and cell phone lines) or was a robocall.

Exact definitions of the term "robocall" vary. The Federal Trade Commission uses the term to describe any telemarketing call that uses a recorded message, rather than a live representative.

The form then prompts you to specify whether you received a voice phone call or text message, though both forms of communication are considered identical for the purposes of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

According to regulations set forth by the Federal Communications Commission, telemarketing texts are equivalent to telemarketing voice calls. That's because the vast majority of telemarketers use autodialer systems to send text messages, just as they do for voice messages. In short, every prohibition around voice calls also applies to the transmission of text messages.

Common Robocall Scams

After that, you'll be asked what the call was about. You select one of 15 options, not including "Unknown" and "Other":

  1. Reducing your debt (credit cards, mortgage, student loans)
  2. Calls pretending to be government, businesses, or family and friends
  3. Medical and prescriptions
  4. Home security and alarms
  5. Computer and technical support
  6. Debt collection
  7. Energy, solar, and utilities
  8. Home improvement and cleaning
  9. Work from home and other ways to make money
  10. Warranties and protection plans
  11. Lotteries, prizes and sweepstakes
  12. Vacation and timeshares
  13. Surveys and political calls
  14. Charities
  15. Dropped call or no message

Most illegal telemarketing calls fall into one of these categories. If you suffered through the message, select the appropriate option. If you hung up before hearing any details, just choose "Unknown."

Note that, along with many companies who frequently violate the DNC Registry, the FTC's list also includes several activities that might be exempt from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act's general prohibitions, though. For example, the Do-Not-Call Registry doesn't apply to political calls, legitimate survey organizations or nonprofit charities.

Everything You Know About The Telemarketer

On the form's second page, you'll be asked to supply as much information as possible about the people who called you. If you have caller ID on your home phone or a cell phone, it should be easy to find the phone number that called you. And, if you actually answered the call, you can supply the company's name, if it was provided. Again, you don't have to know all of the answers; just provide the information that you have.

"Established Business Relationships"

Next, the form asks whether or not you've "done business" with the company within the last 18 months, or contacted them yourself within the last 3 months.

Under current FTC regulations, companies can call people with whom they have an "established business relationship" for a limited amount of time, even if those customers have put their numbers on the DNC Registry.

Companies have up to 18 months from your last purchase, last delivery or last payment to continue calling you with unsolicited marketing messages. If you called the company yourself, they're allowed to ignore the Do-Not-Call Registry for the next three months.

Did You Ask The Company To Stop?

That's a pretty big exemption, but it doesn't apply if you've asked the company to stop calling. If you've asked the company to stop, they have to, whether or not you have an "established business relationship." The form's next question provides you the opportunity to say whether or not you've told the company to stop calling.

Up To $40,654 In Fines For Each Illegal Call

Finally, the FTC complaint form asks you to provide some information about yourself. The Federal Trade Commission reserves the right to investigate any complaint that it receives. The agency may or may not look into your report or, if you're reporting a company that's already on their radar, your complaint may be included in legal proceedings that have already started.

You don't have to submit any personal information if you don't want to, but companies who violate the Do-Not-Call Registry face stiff penalties. As of September 2009, the FTC can impose a fine up to $40,654 for every confirmed violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

Report A Robocall To The FTC

Not on the Do-Not-Call Registry or reporting something unrelated to the Registry? Don't worry. To submit a general complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, visit the agency's Complaint Assistant website and select one of the options under the "File a Complaint Below" prompt. You can choose either:

  • Unwanted telemarketing call (both landline and cell phone)
  • Unwanted text messages
  • Unsolicited or fraudulent emails

Once you've selected the appropriate option, you'll be asked to answer a few simple questions.

1. Are You On The National DNC Registry?

The form first asks whether your phone number is on the National Do-Not-Call Registry. Every telemarketer who wants to make autodialed calls is required to respect the Registry. Technically, the list applies to "any plan, program, or campaign to sell goods or services through interstate phone calls."

All of these entities have to check the Registry at least once every 31 days and remove any new numbers from their internal call lists. The only information companies can access (through the www.telemarketing.donotcall.gov website) is your telephone number. They don't get your name or email address or anything else, even though you have to enter your email address to sign up to the Registry.

Violating The DNC Is (Almost Always) Illegal

If you're already on the National Do-Not-Call Registry, it's usually illegal for telemarketers to call you. And any company that violates this rule should be reported immediately to the Federal Trade Commission.

As we mentioned earlier, reporting violations of the National Do-Not-Call Registry is easily done through the FTC's donotcall.gov site. If you answer "yes" to this first question, indicating that your number is already on the DNC Registry, the form will direct you to the dedicated DNC violation reporting form. Answer "no," however, and you'll be taken to more questions.

2. Did The Robocall Include Illegal Activity?

Following it's own definitions, the FTC next asks whether the call you received was a "robocall," a telemarketing call that included a prerecorded message. Answer "yes" and, as before, you'll be redirected to the agency's Do-Not-Call website where you can submit a complaint. Answer "no," on the other hand, and you'll be prompted to provide details on the call. You can select one or more of the following options:

  • No caller ID information was displayed when the telemarketer called me.
  • The company called me even though I specifically asked them not to.
  • The call was disconnected before I spoke to anyone.
  • I was called before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • I was billed for an item I did not agree to pay for.

Everything in that list is illegal, except for the third point about disconnected calls. Telemarketers are required by federal law to transmit accurate caller ID information whenever possible. And, as we've already mentioned, they're also required to honor a consumer's request to stop calling. In fact, every telemarketer has to maintain an internal Do-Not-Call list, in addition to the national registry, of people who have specifically asked them to stop calling.

Abandoned Telemarketing Calls

Disconnected calls may or may not be illegal. Telemarketers are only allowed to hang up on a small proportion, 3%, of their calls. If the call you received was enough to bump the company over the 3% limit, then it was illegal, but obviously, further investigation would be necessary to confirm that.

Do You Have A History With The Company?

Next, you'll be asked to provide some details about the call and, if applicable, your history with the company that called you. If one of the form's questions doesn't seem to apply to your case, just leave it blank. You'll be asked who initiated the call and when the company first contacted you.

If the company asked you to pay an up-front fee, you'll have an opportunity to say how much they asked you for. And, if you transferred money to the company for an unprovided service, you'll be able to explain how much you lost. Then, on the next page, you'll be asked to provide any information you know about the company itself.

The final step is to provide your personal information, if you want to, and add any additional comments.

File An FCC Complaint

The Federal Communications Commission accepts online robocall complaints at https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us. Just visit that site and click on "File an Unwanted Call Complaint" or go directly to the complaint form here.

The FCC's complaint submission site is just one long form and it's sort of like writing an email. You'll be asked to provide your email address (it's required), supply a subject line and then provide a description of your problem and "what could be done to solve your problem."

Text Messages & Voice Calls Are Treated The Same

Since this is the agency's general reporting form, you'll see lots of question fields that have nothing to do with robocalls. Anyone can use this form to report their telecommunications-related problems, from cramming (unauthorized charges on your phone bill) to interference in your phone signal from amateur radio operators.

To report an illegal robocall, just select "Unwanted calls (including do not call and spoofing)" in the "Phone Issues" field. Remember that, for the purposes of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, voice calls and text messages are treated the same. So every time you see the word "call," add "or text message" after it.

Important Questions To Focus On

As you run down the list of questions, make sure to answer the questions that relate to illegal telemarketing:

  • Did the call / message that you are reporting advertise any type of property, goods, or services?
    • Type of Property, Goods, or Services
  • Have you or anyone else in your household done any business with the caller / company within the past 18 months immediately before you received the call / message?
  • Have you or anyone else in your household made any inquiry or application to the caller / company within the 3 months immediately before you received the call / message?
  • Did you or anyone in your household have a personal relationship with the individual that made the call?
  • Your phone method (either landline, or "wired," wireless or VOIP, Voice over Internet Protocol, the technology that allows you to make voice calls using the internet)

The next few fields allow you to provide details on the person who called you.

Where Did The Robocall Come From?

Enter the phone number that called you and specify what sort of phone received the call. Was it your personal phone? A business line? A toll-free number? Then, if you choose, you can provide the phone number where you received the robocall. Make sure to specify whether or not the phone number is already on the National Do-Not-Call Registry.

After skipping over several more unrelated questions, you'll find fields to provide the call's date and time. The next section only applies to junk faxes, unsolicited advertisements sent to a fax machine. If you're reporting a junk fax, you can supply the details here. If not, skip down to the question titled "Type of Call or Message." You have four options:

  • Abandoned Calls
  • Live Voice
  • Prerecorded Voice
  • Text Message

As we've already seen, telemarketing calls that include prerecorded messages are more strictly regulated than ones with live representatives. Abandoned, or dropped, calls are limited to 3% of a telemarketer's total call load, per marketing campaign.

Did You Give The Caller Consent?

Next, we get to the heart of TCPA violations. Telemarketers can't make autodialed calls, or use prerecorded voice messages, unless they have your prior express written consent.

That's a lengthy legal term (and it's interpretation is contested in nearly every robocall lawsuit), but in the abstract it's pretty simple. You need to give a company your unambiguous consent in writing to call you using an autodialer or a prerecorded voice message on your cell. They also need your unambiguous consent to use a prerecorded voice message to contact your home phone (using an autodialer to contact a landline, on the other hand, is legal, even without your consent).

Consent is unambiguous when it's clear, from the consent form, that you knew at the time you were consenting to receive either autodialed or prerecorded message calls or both. So the form's next questions try to drill down into this issue:

  • Have you or anyone else in your household or business given the caller / company permission to call?
  • Did you give permission to the caller / business to call you in writing?

If the answer to either of these questions is "yes," you should provide the date on which your permission was granted.

Reporting A Spoofed Number

The next set of questions focuses on the FCC's regulation of caller ID. Telemarketers are prohibited from attempting to hide or alter their caller ID information, a practice commonly referred to as "spoofing." Most forms of spoofing are illegal, though there are exceptions for people who have legitimate reasons to hide their phone numbers, like victims of domestic violence.

Used improperly, though, spoofing can be really dangerous. Spoofing technology allows telemarketers, debt collectors and scam artists to replace their phone numbers with other ones. Fraudsters can use the technology to impersonate government agencies, like the Internal Revenue Service, or respected companies.

The form gives you space to submit the phone number you received the robocall from, or you can just leave the field blank if the caller ID read "unknown." In the event that your caller ID also displayed a business or individual's name, you can also add that.

Company Identification Requirements

Next, the form dives in to the substance of the robocall, with a specific focus on TCPA compliance. To stay within the law, telemarketers are required to tell you what company or organization they're calling on behalf of. And they have to do so at the beginning of the message.

So, in the next few questions, you can specify whether the company provided its name during the call and, if possible, supply the company's contact phone number that was given to you in the call. If you were told multiple company names (a third-party marketing company calling on behalf of an energy company, for example), you have space to provide all of the names.

Document Your Robocalls

These last few questions are instructive. Maintaining proper documentation is the key to properly reporting a robocall. It's even more important if you're thinking about filing a TCPA lawsuit. To secure compensation, you'll need to prove your case. You need evidence to do that.

You can start gathering evidence right now. Keep a list of every illegal robocall you receive. Write down every detail you can remember, making sure to include the phone number that called you, the time and date of the call and any business names that were mentioned during the call. It's also a good idea to note what type of call you received, since different sorts of robocalls are regulated in different ways. In most cases, you'll receive one of four sorts of telemarketing calls:

  • Autoresponder - a prerecorded voice message
  • A live representative who speaks immediately
  • A live representative who answers after a delay or clicking sound (that's a sign that the company is using an autodialer program)
  • Text message

The more information the better.

Tell Them To Stop Calling

Since telemarketers need your prior consent to call you (in most cases), it's good practice to revoke your consent every time you get a robocall. If you speak with a live representative, demand that they stop calling you. The company is legally obligated to comply with your wishes. And, if they violate your request, you can sue them for triple damages, up to $1,500 per violation. That can add up really quickly.

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