By Alanna Autler

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — If consumers can agree on anything, it is their hatred for robocalls.

But a new strategy developed by a McKinney man is convincing people to wait by their phones.

That’s because there’s a way to earn money by answering those robocalls.

Thirty people flocked to a hotel conference room in Dallas last Saturday to trade tips on how to turn calls into cash. Collectively, they’ve earned nearly $350,000.

To them, what was once a pet peeve is now the sound of cold, hard cash.

“I’m ready for some more money,” said Paula Curry, who’s earned $9,500.

The common thread between the attendees is Doc Compton, a local consumer credit expert who developed a $47 program on turning robocalls into money.

“Everyone agrees on this, everyone hates robocalls,” Compton said.

CBS 11 reporter Alanna Autler” then asked what he says to people who think this is a scam.

“Look at the checks,” Compton said, referring to settlements consumers can receive from companies that make robocalls.

Two laws, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rules, make it illegal for companies to use an autodialer to call or text your cell phone with out your permission. This allows consumers to sue companies that violate the law.

Companies that contact consumers in spite of these laws could be liable to pay no less than $500 in damages. The penalty triples in cases of “will-full” violations, such as when companies call a number that’s already on the Do Not Call Registry.

“The fact is, these guys don’t care,” Compton said. “They look at it as the cost of doing business and if they pay $1,500 for some of these calls, oh well.”

Calls from political campaigns, charities, or calls conveying health and/or emergency information are not covered by TCPA.

In his guide book, Compton explains step-by-step how to take on robo callers, but here are the basics.

  • Answer the call, then stay on the call in order to glean important information.
  • Jot down details like the company’s name, website and call back number.
  • If you spoke to a live human, write down their name, email address or any other details that could help verify the company and where it’s located.
  • Next, mail a demand letter to that company that explains exactly how and when it violated the law. You may want to include screen grabs to prove when the call happened and how long it lasted, as well as confirmation that your name exists on the Do Not Call Registry. Request the amount of damages you are seeking, which depends on the type of violation. The demand letter will ask the company to settle before a potential lawsuit is filed.

“It’s less expensive for them to just pay up and settle it than go to court,” Compton said.

Companies are not obligated to respond to your letter. But of the approximately 30 individuals at the hotel meeting, 13 stated they received at least one settlement. One person claimed even he received 142 settlements.

Paula Prentice started taking calls after her daughter, who is 17-years-old, started receiving calls on her cell phone while at school.

“It is not appropriate,” said Prentice, who received a $1,500 settlement. “They’re calling her asking her for her credit card number and she says, ‘I don’t have a credit card.'”

Tom Perry, a business owner, said he wants to regain control.

“I feel like I lost my phone to calls that are unproductive everyday and that’s the reason why I started requesting these demands on companies breaking the law,” said Perry, who has received $30,000 in settlements.

But not everyone has made money.

Steve Baker is still waiting to put his skills to the test.

“There’s a tradeoff there between getting the money but also stopping the onslaught of robocalls,” Baker said.

Everyone in the group paid for the kit, but they said everyone should join the effort to end robocalls for good.

“Until it becomes painful enough for someone to pay me the money, I’m going to keep doing this,” Perry said.

Texans have received 4.9 billion robocalls so far this year, according to YouMail’s robocall index .

That’s the highest number of calls logged in any state in 2019.

To place your number on the Do Not Call Registry, visit https://www.donotcall.gov/. That’s where you can also report any unwanted robocalls to the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC received 402,316 complaints in Texas about violations tied to the Do Not Call Registry during fiscal year 2018, according to government data.