How to sue a telemarketing company using the TCPA : Planet Money Telemarketing calls are not only annoying; in some cases, they are illegal. Congress even gives you the right to sue scofflaw telemarketers for $500 a call. Today, the story of one man who collected a surprising amount of money bringing telemarketers to justice.

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Spam call bounty hunter

Spam call bounty hunter

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William Thomas Cain/Getty Images
PHILADELPHIA - SEPTEMBER 26: A headset hangs on a cubical wall after the last telemarketing shift at Spectrum Marketing Services, Inc. September 26, 2003 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

If you have a phone, chances are you've gotten a lot of calls from telemarketers, many of which are illegal. But did you know that you can take the companies that call you to court? The Telephone Consumer Protection Act lets you sue for $500 for every illegal phone call you receive. One stay-at-home dad named Nathen Barton made it his mission to fight back against the telemarketing companies targeting him and his family, one lawsuit at a time. And he made a surprising amount of money in the process.

On this episode, we're examining an experiment in crowdsourced justice. What happens when the government hands over the business of enforcing its regulations to people like Nathen? And what happens when the telemarketers strike back?

This episode was produced by Willa Rubin with help from Nicky Ouellet. It was edited by Keith Romer, fact-checked by Sierra Juarez, and engineered by Gilly Moon with help from Robert Rodriguez.

Music: "I Don't Do Gossip," "Appreciate Ur Patience" and "Tropical Heat"

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