The FCC is leveling a $120 million fine against a “massive caller ID spoofing operation.” One man in Florida allegedly made 96 million robocalls during a three-month span in 2016. His downfall was perhaps violating the Truth in Caller ID Act, which prohibits callers from disguising their Caller ID information while intending to defraud or harm the customer.
The caller supposedly used “neighbor spoofing” to hack into the call recipient’s Caller ID and change the number so it showed a local area code. The technique increases pickups because people instinctively trust calls from their own area code.
He was also accused of violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which includes rules that are easier to break than you might imagine.
Whether he’s found guilty or not, this is already a striking example of how much trouble a business can get into by breaking the rules. It’s important to read up on marketing laws and make sure your business is on the level. Remember, ignorance of the law is not an excuse.
It’s not just the FCC or the FTC that can go after you. The customer you are calling can sue you for up to $500 for each TCPA violation you mistakenly make. If they can prove you did it on purpose, they can sue for up to three times that much.
If you’re running a telephone campaign, here are some parts of the TCPA that you should know about.
You’re prohibited from calling people earlier than 8 a.m. and later than 9 p.m. One way businesses mistakenly break this rule is by forgetting about time zones. It might be an okay hour where you are, but make sure it’s not too early or late in the time zone you are calling.
You are required provide your name and the name of your organization. You also need to let the customer know your address or phone number.
You are prohibited from calling cell phones. You can use a phone validator to find out if a phone number goes to a cell phone or a landline.
When a customer tells you not to call them anymore, you need to log that information and honor it for at least five years. You also need to not call anyone on the National Do Not Call Registry.
One way we’ve seen businesses try to get around the no artificial voice rule is to have a real agent call the customer and ask them if they would like to listen to a recording. If the customer agrees, then the recording is played. You should check any relevant local laws before using a tactic like this, though.
The TCPA says you cannot fax an advertisement to a customer if they have not requested or agreed to let you do so.
Depending on your industry, there may be other applicable telemarketing rules. We recommend that you research the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), and other laws that apply to your business.
Breaking the law is just one way your telemarketing plan can fail. Other practices that doom cold-calling efforts include:
A lot of planning goes into creating a top-notch telemarketing plan. As you prepare yours, it might help to have a lawyer look it over and make sure it doesn’t break any laws.
If you have a clear and reasonable marketing plan set up, a telemarketing plan can be a successful way to generate customers. Just be sure to follow all the rules.