Cashing in on illegal robo calls to your cell

Posted at 10:33 PM, Nov 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-19 22:33:57-05

Robo calls are public enemy number one when it comes to consumer complaints, but one woman is fighting back.

Lea Bourgeois is suing a debt collector in federal court -- accusing them of calling her cell thousands of times. 

She says they would call from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m.  She never suspected one late mortgage payment would trigger what she considers an avalanche of harassment.

Bourgeois’s attorney Billy Howard with Morgan and Morgan says it is a case of robo bullying.

Federal law outlaws robo calls to cell phones. After you ask a debt collector to stop calling your cell, every call after that amounts to a minimum of $500 per call violation.  It is money you can sue for.

Bourgeois showed us the letter she sent to Wells Fargo asking for the calls stop.

We found nearly 30 other federal lawsuits have been filed since 2014. Consumers from Florida to California accuse Wells Fargo of violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. In some cases people say they asked the bank to stop.  In other cases, plaintiffs claim they were current on payments or the bank was dialing the wrong person, but the calls continued.

Alex Sanchez, President of the Florida Bankers Association says banks often have no choice but to call a cell phone when trying to collect a debt because the borrower listed it on the application. He also points out these calls almost always arise because someone has not held up their end of the loan agreement.

Howard says they went through cell phone records and discovered more than 6000 calls from Wells Fargo to their client over the last four years.  Her January records show her phone rang more than 20 times a day.

MORE | An inside look at robo call. How do they do it?

Wells Fargo responded to my questions via this email. "While we dispute the claims made in the suit filed by Ms. Bourgeois, we will try to avoid the time and expense of a court proceeding and to resolve the matter through court-supervised mediation that starts next week."

Bourgeois says she'd like to see her case serve as a deterrent to all debt collectors.