Calls from telemarketers can be a nuisance -- they also can be illegal. A customer recounts his experience after calls began last February and continued for six months. Ana Garcia reports for the NBC4 New at 11 p.m. on Sunday Jan. 13, 2013.
Robo calls happen with such frequency and are so blatant that it’s hard to believe most are illegal under Federal Trade Commission regulations.
According to the FTC, the law is clear: If you haven’t given written consent for companies to call you with their sales pitch, then it’s a violation.
Sayan Aboudi is a law student and he’s an AT&T customer, which is why he said he was “annoyed” that T-Mobile called him repeatedly over an unpaid bill that was not his.
Now he's suing.
T-Mobile was looking for "a gentleman by the name of Prophet Walker," Aboudi said.
"My name is not Prophet Walker. You can ask my parents," Aboudi deadpanned.
Aboudi said he was a T-Mobile customer three years ago, but these calls began last February and went on for six months.
"I really felt harassed," Aboudi recalled.
He told T-Mobile numerous times it was not him they were trying to reach, but they kept calling anyway.
"It’s text book harassment," said consumer rights attorney Todd Friedman, who is representing Adoudi.
Friedman has filed a class-action lawsuit against T-Mobile alleging the carrier violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
Every call has a price tag, Friedman said.
"There are monetary penalties for that. $500 for every violation, and if there’s a continuing violation it could be as high as $1,500 a call," Friedman said.
The FTC also goes after robo callers.
"We have obtained over $70 million against the individuals and companies who’ve engaged in robo calls and do-not-call activities," said Tom Syta of the FTC.
The calls to Aboudi have stopped and a T-Mobile spokesperson said they do not comment on pending litigation.
As for Prophet Walker, the person T-Mobile was trying to reach, it's not clear who he is or if there was indeed a billing dispute.
The FTC has been aggressive about going after telemarketers trying to sell things. But many operate phone banks from out of the country, making it tough to catch and stop them.
If you have a clever idea about how stop these calls, the FTC is holding a contest online – and the winning idea will get $50,000.
Entries will be accepted until Jan. 17. Winners will be announced April 1