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By: Ben 2018-09-29 01:34:03

INDIANAPOLIS - Robocalls pose a challenge for lawmakers, attorney general’s office

INDIANAPOLIS – As communications technology advances, it has become more of a challenge for regulators to stop robocalls, unwanted telephone solicitations and other attempted scams.

That was the message Indiana lawmakers heard as they met Tuesday in the chamber of the state House of Representatives to discuss the Indiana Telephone Solicitation Act, which is supposed to protect people from receiving robocalls or phishing calls. The lawmakers are members of the Interim Study Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications.

State Rep. Jeff Ellington, R-Worthington, had proposed legislation last year to deal with the issue but ran into several road blocks. His bill would have raised fines and held responsible the upper management of the companies violating Indiana’s laws and the Do Not Call list.

Rep. Jeff Ellington, R-Worthington, talks about legislation to regulate robocalls. Photo by Eddie Drews,

The issue was illustrated by state Rep. Alan Morrison, R-Brazil, who told those gathered that today alone he received calls from Tulsa, Oklahoma; Granite Falls, Minnesota; and Vancouver, Washington. He sais he doesn’t know anyone that lives in those towns.

Section Chief Douglas Swetnam of the of Data Privacy and Identity Theft Unit of the attorney general’s office told members of the study committee that his office is working to investigate and enforce laws regarding data breaches.

“The Identity Theft Unit was formed to focus on the problem of identity theft. Every time the bad guys get a hold of your information and they are able to use that information in ways to open up accounts, to pretend to be you,” Swetnam said.

With apps on the dark web that allow people to spoof any number they want for only $1.99, it has become easier for people to commit identity theft.

The attorney general’s office is working with federal, state, and local law enforcement to prosecute identity deception, fraud, and related crimes, including cybersecurity crimes and robocalls. The office manages the Do Not Call list and investigates and prosecutes DNC violations. A DNC violation is a phone call, fax or text message from robocalls and false or misleading caller ID.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Marguerite Sweeney, also of Data Privacy and Identity Theft Unit, said that in 2018 her office has received 3,905 complaints about unwanted calls. Of those, 68 percent of begin with a prerecorded message.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Marquerite Sweeney answers questions about proposed legislation on telephone solicitation. Photo by Eddie Drews,

“We estimate from the complaints that we do get and analyze, that at least 70 percent of unwanted calls are attempted scams,” Sweeney said.

The scams include phishing, credit services, insurance or a contest of some sort that you won.

The do not call law prohibits making a telephone sales call to a number registered on the DNC list. Those who do will face a $10,000 fine for the first call and up to $25,000 for each call after.

But it’s difficult to catch and prosecute violators, Sweeney said, because they can transmit false caller ID information or, if they can be tracked, they are often outside of the United States, far beyond the reach of Indiana prosecutors.

“We are currently involved in several multistate initiatives—the do not call working group and the robocall technology working group,” Sweeney said.

Karlee Macer, D-Indianapolis, said that for now, the best solution to deal with unwanted robocalls is to not answer calls from an unknown number.
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