Turning robocalls into cash: This kit and some legwork could get you cash for those annoying calls

Posted at 12:45 PM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 20:44:07-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Constant robocalls can be a pest for many of us. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has been keeping track of robocalls in the Commonwealth.

“There were one and a half billion robocalls into Virginia in 2019,” Herring told News 3. “We're using the tools available to try and come after you if you're doing it.”

Robocalling is illegal under state and federal law.

“Unfortunately, robocalls have become a daily annoyance,” he said.

Mechanicsville resident Joe Popiel told News 3 that at one point, he was getting 20 to 30 robocalls a week. He was looking to dial up a solution.

“Constant interruptions on a daily basis,” Popiel said. “I'm not wanting to change my number because knowing that, that would start over again.”

He said that solution came in December 2019 when he came across a kit called, "Turning Robocalls Into Cash,” by consumer advocate Doc Compton.

“We all pretty much agree on one thing, and that is we all hate robocalls,” Compton told News 3.

Compton has a background in consumer credit and finance and wanted to share information about turning the tables on robocallers.

“The vast majority of people, they know that the robocalls are annoying, they know that something should be done about it, but they don't know exactly what can be done about it,” Compton said. “You can actually take matters into your own hands and go after these illegal robocallers and do the one thing that has proven an effective means to make them stop, and that is hit them in the pocketbook.”

He said this isn't a get-rich-quick scheme and requires time and effort for results.

For $47, Compton’s kit is a process involving taking the call and getting information out of the caller. Then, you research information and find out who’s behind the call. After that, you put the information into a template demand letter to send off to the robocaller.

“They'll typically try to settle with you rather than go to court,” Compton said. “The federal statute says $500 per violation, and that number is tripled if you can demonstrate that the violation was made willfully. For example, if I'm on the Do Not Call list and they don't have my expressed prior written consent to call, that's a willful violation. So, instead of $500 per violation, it would become $1500 per violation.”

“Individuals do have the right to bring a case against the company who is making illegal robocalls,” Herring said.

Herring added, in Virginia, each robocall can carry up to a $5,000 civil penalty for a willful violation.

As for Popiel, he started getting results quickly.

“In my phone, I had a record of all of those calls from one particular robocaller dating back to September 2019, and there was quite a few calls that were all identical,” he said.

Next for Popiel came a payout of $5,000 and not as many calls, and the numbers are still adding up.

Compton said his kit has also helped those impacted by COVID-19.

“We've actually had a couple of people who've been able to take the money they've made and start businesses in the wake of losing their job because of the pandemic,” Compton said.

Overall, Compton’s goal is to not let companies off the hook.

“We're building an army of people that are coming after you,” he said. “Eventually, if you don't get right, we're going to push you out of business.”