Skip to main content

Top 5 TCPA Traps

still life with handcuffs, smartphone, flash drive, and five dollar bills (american)

Fri, 10/02/2020 - 09:34

TCPA litigators and serial plaintiffs want to infiltrate your marketing campaigns. Their modus operandi involves taking advantage of unsuspecting marketers and well-intentioned companies who may not know that they are required to abide by the TCPA.

Their mission is to entrap businesses in order to exaggerate or fabricate claims of TCPA violations. Even marketers that follow the compliance rules are potential victims of serial litigators seeking profit and exploiting TCPA’s aggressive bias against marketers.

Here are some of their favorite tricks:

1. Feigning Interest
Plaintiffs target companies with inadequate opt-in language on their webforms. They provide a real phone number with a fake name to bait you into calling them.

Case Study
A Tennessee man has filed over 80 lawsuits using the tactic of feigning interest in the defendant’s products or services. He hasn’t even made use of a lawyer in most of his lawsuits, opting instead to maximize his profit by representing himself.

2. Shoeboxing
Plaintiffs collect multiple prepaid cell phones with the intention of receiving phone calls on phone numbers that have been reassigned from their original owner. This strategy can be especially lucrative for professional plaintiffs as approximately 100,000 mobile phone numbers are reassigned by wireless carriers every day and some estimates say that 20% of an average customer contact list could be reassigned numbers.

Case Study
A Pennsylvania plaintiff with 35 prepaid cell phones in a shoebox says she specifically purchased every phone in order to manufacture TCPA lawsuits. She has filed at least 11 TCPA cases in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania and has sent at least 25 pre-litigation demand letters against companies over calls they made to her cell phones without her permission. The plaintiff admitted that she purchased cell phones solely in order to receive calls intended for the prior subscribers of reassigned numbers.

3. Ambiguous Consent
Plaintiffs trick companies with vague or ambiguous opt-out requests. For example, if the company says, “Type ‘STOP’ to stop receiving offers,” plaintiffs will instead type, “Please don’t text me” or a similarly, intentionally indistinct revocation of consent. As a result, the company does not register the revocation of consent, continuing to send offers which now violate the TCPA.

Case Study
A serial plaintiff and known “Opt-Out Evader” has multiple suits pending against retailers with identical allegations. She consents to receive text messages, but then proceeds to opt out using plain language that she knows will not register an actual opt-out on the text messaging platform.

4. Porting Numbers
The FCC allows consumers to retain their telephone number when switching from one carrier to another, making it possible to port a landline number to a cell phone. Savvy plaintiffs take advantage of this technical loophole to trick companies into calling their cell without proper consent.

Case Study
A Polish immigrant and plaintiff who filed over 30 TCPA lawsuits has earned more than $800,000 in settlements. His trick? He has three phone numbers, one of which was originally a landline but was ported to serve as a cell number (he claims he did so because squirrels kept chewing the line). One of his phone bills from 2011 shows that the cell phone received more than 1,000 calls in one month.

5. Call Seeding
Plaintiffs will give consent for their number to be called, but instead of answering when you call, they will quickly call back from a different cell phone number for which the marketer does not have consent, talk just long enough to identify themselves, and hang up, thus baiting the marketer’s reps into calling back without consent.

Case Study
A Pennsylvania dad and professional plaintiff who is in the business of bringing TCPA lawsuits has filed at least 28 actions across the country to date. He tricks companies by signing up as a customer, purposely engaging with them briefly before cancelling their services, with the clear aim of encouraging calls and generating litigation. He intentionally encourages calls to his cellular telephone number for the purposes of getting TCPA damages. He uses his phone as a “lawsuit-generating weapon to turn a profit.”