6 Tips to Help You Avoid Phone Sex Operator Scams (They’re Everywhere)

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A collective-action lawsuit filed recently against a national phone sex chat line alleges the company drastically underpays its employees and “manipulates [its] compensation process to insure that their workers remain underpaid.”

According to court documents, Tele Pay bills customers $5 per minute to talk to its phone sex operators, also known as phone actors.

Since five bucks a minute works out to $300 per hour, you’d think phone actors would make bank on their cut, right?

Nope.

Court documents say Tele Pay often pays workers as little as $4.20 per hour — well below the nationwide minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Workers say the company tells them they can earn more money but consistently come up with ways to circumvent actually paying them more.

The court filing outlines even more shenanigans Tele Pay allegedly uses to underpay its workers, including holding actors accountable for problems outside their control and making it almost impossible to track the amount of time actors spend on the phone with callers.

The details of the lawsuit highlight the ways in which phone sex operators are vulnerable to being taken advantage of by unscrupulous companies.

Working as a Phone Sex Operator

From full-time office workers and college students to men and women who are simply between jobs, people from all walks of life turn to PSO work as a way to make some extra cash.

PSO gigs are usually marketed toward women, particularly cash-strapped moms. Though male phone sex workers aren’t as common, they’re definitely also part of the industry.

Lawsuits against phone sex companies are rare, but the issues Tele Pay workers raised are not.

Many phone sex companies make bold claims about how much workers can make, but those figures rarely line up with reality.

“Some PSOs working for companies are excited to get $1 a minute they are on the phone; which could quite literally mean being paid $15 for 15 minutes of work — but this is all they have to show for having hung around, waiting for calls, for a six hour shift,” explains Deanna, a writer with the women’s’ advocacy website Kitsch-Slapped.

Phone sex jobs are also pitched as a way to bring in some extra money while doing chores around the house, but even that’s not grounded in reality.

“When I started I thought I could wash dishes, clean my apartment or manage my email accounts,” Mona Monzano says of her experience as a PSO. “Beware — the client knows if they don’t have your full concentration, and they’ll call you out on it.”

Many PSOs also say the pay doesn’t make up for the sleep deprivation, difficult conversations and emotional labor involved in working as a phone actor.

And yet, there are some success stories.

“Having been a phone sex operator for more than eight years, I can tell you from experience that phone sex can be a fun, sexy, lucrative gig,” says author and phone sex operator Wednesday Lee Friday. (Of course, she also uses words like “frustrating, shocking, confounding, exasperating.”)

Finding a PSO Job Without Getting Scammed

If you want to give phone acting a whirl, there are a few things to keep in mind to help choose a phone sex company you can feel comfortable with.

  1. Look for work opportunities at job boards specifically geared toward adult entertainment. Search sites like SexyJobs.com and AdultStaffing.com rather than general job boards at websites like Craigslist.
  1. Pay attention to the audition process. A brief voice audition over the phone (typically with a female supervisor) is standard practice for reputable phone sex companies. If your audition involves a long, detailed private chat with someone who seems (not to put too fine a point on it) overly invested in the audition call, hang up and apply somewhere else.
  1. Do your homework. As with any other work-from-home job, it’s important to look into who you’ll be working for before you apply. Remember, even the most credible phone sex company (or any business, for that matter) will have unhappy former workers, so you’ll probably see a few online complaints no matter which company you search. Ultimately, you’ll need to trust your instincts and avoid companies that seem sketchy.
  1. You should never have to pay startup fees. Besides possibly paying for a landline telephone, becoming a phone actor shouldn’t cost you a dime. Just say no to any company that tries to charge you administrative fees or some other silliness.
  1. Beware of big promises. The old adage “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” applies here. Companies that promise you’ll rake in hundreds of dollars during your first week probably aren’t being honest with you. While that kind of income is possible, it takes time to build a base of repeat callers, and that’s where the bucks are.
  1. Keep your guard up. Along those same lines, be wary of any company that offers to put you in touch with one of its PSOs to give you the inside scoop on how much you can make on the job.

They usually offer to let you listen in on a call with a “regular customer” who seems awfully eager to tip his favorite PSO wads of money. Remember, the PSO industry is filled actors, and that often includes hiring managers who may get a bonus for every new worker who signs up through them.

Obviously, PSO work isn’t for everyone. It’s a totally legitimate way to make money, though, so if it appeals to you, go for it. Just be sure to pick a fun name for your alter ego.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Swing by Twitter and say hi @lisah.

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