Robocalls are like litter, bedbugs and cockroaches – nobody likes them and they're nearly impossible to get rid of.
Just last year Ohioans received 1.9 billion robocalls alone, not including texts. A new law that takes effect March 2 aims to crack down on scam calls and text messages that annoy everyone and dupe some people into losing big money.
The new law, sponsored by Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, criminalizes "spoofing," a favorite tactic of scammers that uses phone numbers similar to the intended target. Foreign robocall companies purchase domestic phone numbers from U.S. third party companies and use local area codes in the hopes that someone will pick up.
"(Scammers) are finding more ways to get creative to trick people," Gavarone said in an interview. "This legislation makes Ohio the hardest state in the country to conduct a robocall scheme."
Senate Bill 54 also increases penalties for telecommunications fraud and criminalizes the use of internet text messages and calls.
How will Ohio's anti-robocall law be enforced?
This bill gives more power to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to bring cases against scammers in state court, rather than federal court, which he said will help settle cases more quickly.
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Civil penalties collected under the new law go into Ohio’s Telemarketing Fraud Enforcement Fund, which bankrolls investigation and litigation expenses associated with telecommunications fraud cases.
The fund also gets money from registration fees paid by telemarketing companies. Those fees cover the attorney general's efforts to make sure they follow best practices, such as not using blocked numbers and identifying who is calling and why within the first minute of a phone call.
Last week, Yost and 50 attorneys general urged the Federal Communications Commission to combat foreign robocalls and to make it more difficult for scammers to contact Americans by creating standardized requirements for telemarketers.
To learn more about telecommunications fraud or to file a complaint, contact the Attorney General’s office by texting “ROBO” to 888111, calling 1-800-282-0515 or visiting Ohioprotects.org. Even if there was was no financial loss, the AG's office recommends reporting robocall or attempted scams to their office.
What's the best way to avoid getting scammed?
Yost's office says Ohioans should follow some simple tips to avoid being targeted by robocallers, including:
Don't answer calls from unknown numbers.
Don't give out Social Security numbers, bank account or credit card information over the phone.
If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is, so avoid any quick decisions to give money over the phone.
Legitimate agencies, such as your bank or the IRS, don't call or text from unknown numbers and don't request personal info over the phone.
Install an application on your phone that helps block or notify you of potential scam calls.
Register your number to the FCC's National Do Not Call Registry, and file reports if you continue to receive solicitor calls. Keep in mind, the list only protects people from legitimate or name brand companies, which usually does not include those who use unethical practices such as spoofing.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: New Ohio law cracks down on robocalls that plague consumers