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Tired of spam and robocalls? Here’s how you can block them, and even make money off them

In World
January 19, 2024

There aren’t many things more annoying than a constant deluge of robocalls or spam sales calls to your phone. The incoming call could be something or someone important, so you pick up just to hear a salesman on the other end or, even worse, a robotic voice.

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 63% of all calls in the United States are spam calls, meaning there’s a good chance you’ll fall victim to one at some point.

The good news: most of these calls are illegal and are subject to fines ranging from $500 to $1,000 if you make a report to the FTC. You can also register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry.

Here’s how to do both.

National Do Not Call Registry

The FTC operates the National Do Not Call Registry, which is free to sign up for and stops all illegal sales calls to any phone number you submit to the registry. An illegal sales call is a robocall trying to sell you something without your prior written permission directly from you.

Once you register your number to the list — you can register as many numbers as you want — you’ll receive an email with a link to click on within 72 hours to confirm your decision. It can take up to 30 days for all sales calls to stop, but your number remains on the registry indefinitely. After your number has been registered for 30 days, you can file a report to the FTC here if you get an illegal call.

The FTC receives millions of reports of spam calls, an FTC spokesperson told the Idaho Statesman via a phone interview on Wednesday. That means that although they can’t respond to most complaints, every complaint is filed and allows investigators and law enforcement to track trends such as where the calls originate from or if they’re targeting specific groups.

The spokesperson said it’s unlikely you’ll hear back directly from the FTC if they pursue a company you complained about, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for updates if you know the company name that called you. Reported phone numbers are added to an FTC-curated list that consumers and app developers can use to create apps or software to block robocalls.

Unfortunately, the National Do Not Call Registry does not prevent sales calls from companies that follow the law. The registry is a list that shows telemarketers what numbers they cannot call, rather than blocking the call.

The following cold calls are still allowed, even if you’re on the registry:

Does Idaho have a Do Not Call list?

The state of Idaho does not operate a Do Not Call Registry but leans on the FTC’s registry. There are only 11 states that run their own registry, including Colorado, Florida and Texas.

But you can file a complaint through the Office of the Attorney General for unwanted robocalls and solicitation. You can access the form online and type directly into it, but it must be printed and mailed to the address at the bottom.

The FTC partnered with attorney generals from every state in June 2023 to announce “Operation Stop Spam Calls.” The initiative brings government agencies at both the federal and state levels together to tackle telemarketers and companies that collect and distribute consumers’ telephone numbers.

“Our collective efforts – from this sweep to the Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force and beyond – help us to expand our playbook, allowing us to outwit and defeat these perpetrators in their own arena,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost stated in a news release. “Our secret weapon is consumers – whom we urge to continue reporting illicit robocalls, so we can sever these unwanted illegal robocallers’ connection once and for all.”

How do you make money from robocalls?

There is also a way you can potentially profit from reporting illegal calls.

If you sign up for the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry, after 30 days, any robocalls you receive can be reported to the FTC via an online form. Whenever a company calls you after the 30-day period, they can be liable to pay you up to $1,000 per call following an FTC and law enforcement investigation into the company.

Americans across the country have made thousands of dollars from reporting robocalls, including a Colorado man who has made “mid five-figures” over the last couple of years, and a Florida man who’s made at least $14,000.

Conversely, an Idaho man was fined $9.9 million for spamming consumers with racist, anti-Semitic and threatening robocalls.

The quickest way to potentially receive payment is to file a claim in small claims court, which can be done online in Idaho. All you need to file the claim is to ask which company is calling you and where the company is based.

The Idaho Court Assistance Office is available to help Idahoans navigate the court system. The office also has online tools and guides to help file a claim in small claims court.

There is a $69 filing fee for small claim cases. Once you file a claim, the defendant has 21 days to “answer.” Regardless if the defendant answers or not, you will receive a court date and time where a judge will decide if your claim is valid and if you will win the claim.

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