How To Make Money Off Illegal Telemarketers

If a telemarketer calls you illegally, you may be able to sue them.

ByABC News
July 21, 2014, 12:00 AM
It's illegal for telemarketers to call you if you're on the National Do-Not-Call list.
It's illegal for telemarketers to call you if you're on the National Do-Not-Call list.
Getty Images

— -- The next time a telemarketer calls you, don’t think of the phone ringing. Think of it cha-chinging! What’s that you say? You’re on the National Do-Not-Call list? Me too, but I still get calls. And that’s both obnoxious — and an opportunity!

Why? Because it’s illegal for telemarketers to call you if you’re on the National list — or if you’ve asked to be on the company’s own, internal do-not-call list. And — here’s the juicy part — if a telemarketer calls you illegally, you are entitled to sue them for $500 per call! And they never call just once, now do they? Furthermore, if the company knowingly broke the law by calling you, this private “right of action” triples to $1,500.

PrivacyStar, a caller ID and blocking service, keeps track of the top trending phone numbers telemarketers are calling from. Click here to see that list. If you see the phone number of “your” telemarketer on the list, that means the company is bugging lots of other people too, and filing a lawsuit could help you personally, plus be a good deed for all of “phone-kind.”

The list is generated by PrivacyStar users when they look up a number to see who it belongs to. When a phone number shoots to the top of the list, that indicates lots of people are getting calls from that number and it probably belongs to a telemarketer. PrivacyStar investigates these surges and reports illegal telemarketers to the Federal Trade Commission. In fact, the company says it is responsible for a third of these reports to the FTC.

OK, so filing a lawsuit may not seem like a cinch unless you’re a lawyer. (By the way, I believe ALL lawyers have a duty to file suit when they are wronged in consumer matters since they have the knowledge to do so!) However, all sorts of experts tell me it’s not hard at all. So here’s information on how to do it from a law firm’s perspective, a tech perspective and from a guy who wrote a book called, you guessed it, “How To Sue a Telemarketer!”

Opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.

Elisabeth Leamy is a 20-year consumer advocate for programs including "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show." She is the author of Save BIG and The Savvy Consumer. Elisabeth is also a professional speaker, delivering talks nationwide on saving money, media relations, and career success. Elisabeth receives her best story tips from readers, so please connect with her via Facebook, Twitter or her website, to share your ideas.