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What is a Robocall and How Does it Work?

Updated on 03.02.2023
what is a robocall

How to report robocallers who keep calling at night, and how to stop annoying robocalls?

When consumers fall behind on their bills, debt collectors start calling — but are increasingly using automated dialing systems to harass as many debtors as possible. Creditors sometimes use telephone tactics that violate federal law, like flooding consumers with automated calls in spite of requests to make them stop.

And as the novel coronavirus outbreak continues to ravage the economy, millions of Americans have lost their jobs and falling behind on their bills.

Debtors are regulated by both the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) when contacting consumers about money owed. Under those two federal acts, consumers may opt out of receiving harassing phone calls from creditors - and could be entitled to payouts if those companies fail to comply.

The team at Consumer Attorneys will fight for consumers who have asked for collectors to stop interrupting their lives while they work to settle their debts.

Debt Collectors Have Rules

Since the 1970s, the FDCPA has prohibited creditors from harassing consumers or using abusing or deceitful tactics to collect debts from consumers. 

The TCPA, which has been on the books since 1991, also protects consumers from debt collectors who employ abusive methods - like the use of threatening, abusive or profane language - during phone calls as well as by text message. 

Under the TCPA, a court may find that a company that contacted a consumer via call or text without their consent may have to cough up $500 for each contact. 

If a judge finds that a company willfully made contact with a consumer after it was told to back off, it may have to pay $1,500 per violation.

Under the FDCPA, debt collectors may not:

  • deposit a consumer’s post-dated check early;
  • attempt to collect more from a consumer than allowed by contract or state law;
  • contact a consumer about a debt via postcard or with a letter in an envelope indicating that it was sent by a debt collector.

Creditors are also barred from falsely claiming they are a lawyer when contacting consumers about a debt or threatening to have them arrested if they can’t pay up.

Companies who run afoul of the FDCPA - or third parties hired to collect debts - may also have to pay up to $1,000 for each consumer affected by their violations.

The Orange County, California-based American Advisors Group recently agreed to pay $3.5 million to settle a class-action suit filed under the TCPA by a consumer who says he was illegally contacted by bill collectors and telemarketers.

Despite these protections, debt collectors may still employ abusive tactics to harass consumers about their bills - or rely upon automated dialers to do the job for them, as many have done in recent years.

Most people can recognize when they’re getting a call from a robot: an unfamiliar number comes up on their caller ID and, upon answering, there may be a few seconds of dead air before a prerecorded message starts to play.

Some companies also use autodialers to connect consumers with live operators.

Consumers should remember that debt collectors are not allowed to use robocallers or autodialers to contact people without their consent - as well as consumers who have requested to not be contacted.

How We Can Help

Consumers who are being contacted by debt collectors should hold on to any written correspondence and keep records of any calls they receive - even if they are autocalls - noting dates and times and anything discussed.

Those records could be used to hold debt collectors accountable in court if they have violated federal law - and the lawyers at Consumer Attorneys are here to fight for consumers who believe they are being harassed by creditors.

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