AUSTIN (KXAN) — Dan Graham says his phone rings and rings constantly.

“I probably get, on average, 10 every day,” Graham said of the number of spam calls and texts he receives. “I counted one day, actually…I turned 24 that day.”

He said most came from spoofed phone numbers selling insurance, extending warranties and offering student loan forgiveness.

He registered his number with the National Do Not Call Registry (DNC), which was set up to stop unwanted commercial calls, but he said it made no difference.

Since he splits his time between Dallas and Austin for work and travels a lot, it’s not an option for Graham to ignore all unknown numbers.

“With now two young children and a wife living in another town, not answering the phone when I get a strange call is not an option, especially because now these guys have started spoofing phone numbers,” Graham explained.

Repulsive

The financial accounting consultant began filing complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission, but said there was no relief.

“I started pushing back. I would stay in line until I found the company behind it and then I would file a complaint with the BBB. I’ve probably filed over two dozen BBB complaints and I haven’t got to nothing, just more frustrated,” he said.

Last April, Graham filed his first lawsuit in Travis County against a company violating the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

“In an effort to respond to a growing number of telephone marketing calls, Congress enacted the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in 1991,” according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

It restricts telemarketing calls and the use of auto-dialed or pre-recorded calls or text messages.

In 2012, the FCC said the agency had revised rules to require telemarketers, “(1) to obtain prior express written consent from consumers before automatically calling them, (2) to no longer allow telemarketers to use an “established business relationship” to avoid obtaining consumer consent when using their home phone, and (3) requiring telemarketers to provide an automated, interactive “opt-out” mechanism with every call automated so consumers can immediately tell the telemarketer to stop calling.”

Pursue telemarketers

“It’s no longer just calls that are, ‘Hey, we want to sell you a car…we want to sell insurance,’ to text messages that are, I would say, blatant fraud. “You won an iPad”, or you know, “You won an iPhone” or “Your phone is infected and you need to download this antivirus software”, things like that,” he explained.

Graham filed about 50 small claims cases just in Travis County and several more in North Texas and said he collected about $75,000 in settlements.

We’ve had some who just said “Hey, who cares”. We will continue to do what we want. No excuses, nothing. We also had another company, that’s probably my favorite, we sued them and they called, their legal counsel called us and said, “First of all, thank you.” We are aware that you are suing us, but we were unaware that our marketing affiliates were doing this kind of behavior. We fired them on the spot, we ended the relationship.'”

He said about 10 companies have changed the way they handle this type of marketing.

“I really think the law was written specifically for this kind of situation, when we see our regulators are overwhelmed, we’re the ones being harassed, we can actually stand up and do something,” Graham explained.

Aggressive application

In a recent report to Congress, the FTC said more than 244 million consumers listed their phone numbers on the DNC registry in the past two years.

The report also detailed that there were more than five million complaints in 2021, with people overwhelmingly reporting robocall violations.

The FTC noted that “impostor scam and warranty protection scam calls have led to a list of frequently reported call topics.”

Since the pandemic, the FTC said the agency has received more than 18,000 do-not-call complaints related to COVID, according to the report.

The FCC said last March that it had taken aggressive enforcement action. The agency imposed the largest fine in FCC history – a $225 million fine against Texas telemarketers for illegally spoofing about 1 billion robocalls to sell health insurance plans short term and time-limited.

The agency said the robocalls falsely claimed to offer health insurance plans from well-known health insurance companies. Cease and desist letters were also sent to six voice service providers who consistently violated guidelines on the use of auto-dial and pre-recorded voicemail calls.

“We could make this kind of endless spam unaffordable”

Graham got some relief from the calls and texts after the lawsuits.

“I’ll get to the company line and the company will say ‘You know, you’ve been blocked’, and so I got a lot. I even asked the telemarketer to pick up the line and say ‘Hmm , it looks like you’ve been blacklisted,” he said. “I’ve also seen certain types of calls go down.”

Graham explained that anyone receiving these calls and texts should report it to the FTC and find out the company behind it, then write reviews and post what happened on social media.

He said Travis County has made the filing process very user-friendly and there is a lot you can do online.

“If people knew how to push back and started doing it, we could make this kind of endless spam unaffordable for those who do,” he explained. “The hope is that enough of us get up, start pushing back, that it becomes more costly for companies to negligently hire these telemarketers and participate in these telemarketing practices. .more expensive to do it, then the benefit they get from it.”