from the Columbus Dispatch
When Ohioans get a call from a local number, that number might not always be what it seems.
Some telemarketers are stealing local numbers to appear more trustworthy — and to get you to answer the phone.
A newly introduced bill aims to put an end to so-called “spoofing.”
A variety of methods can be used to do that. One of the most popular is Voice-over-Internet-Protocol, or VoIP, which allows a person to make voice phone calls over the internet. Some online VoIP services even allow users to create the number they display as caller ID.
House Bill 597, introduced by Reps. Keith Faber, R-Celina, and Jonathan Dever, R-Madeira, would make spoofing a felony.
State Auditor Dave Yost and Attorney General Mike DeWine also support the proposal.
Under the bill, stealing a local phone number would become a fifth-degree felony; providing misleading caller identification would become a fourth-degree felony.
In Ohio, conviction of a fifth-degree felony is punishable by six to 12 months in prison and a maximum fine of $2,500 dollars. A fourth-degree felony conviction is punishable by six to 18 months, and a $5,000 maximum fine.
Faber knows about these deceptive marketing tactics firsthand; telemarketers used his personal cellphone number to make calls.
“My number has been used quite a bit in our area,” Faber said, adding that he’s not sure whether that’s because he’s a former Senate president and now a House member.
“It’s still happening at least a couple of times a week.”
Faber said he gets calls from random people claiming that he’s called them when he hasn’t.
“My cellphone will be just sitting in my lap when they call,” he said.
The legislation would not apply to numbers that appear as unknown or blocked numbers. Faber said the scammers targeted by the bill are in effect committing identity fraud.
There are several actions that Ohioans can take to deter telemarketers, including signing up for the federal “Do Not Call” Registry, which telemarketers are required to check every 31 days. Faber said that scammers often ignore the registry, and Ohio currently has no law on the books to prevent telemarketing scammers from stealing phone numbers.
Yost said the legislation is “long overdue.”
“For too long, consumers have been paying for phones, only to have them hijacked by unscrupulous scammers and telemarketers who spoof their numbers using whatever methods they can to get a consumer to answer the phone,” said Yost, who is running for attorney general. “Once they answer a spoofed number, consumers are too often further led into deceitful actions to steal their identity.”
DeWine, a GOP gubernatorial candidate, said, “Faked phone numbers are just another tool that criminals, scammers and cheats use to exploit vulnerable, hardworking Ohioans.”
Faber said the legislation is meant to send a clear message to telemarketing scammers: Don’t steal someone’s identity.
“If you want to call somebody … own the phone number,” Faber said. “Don’t pretend to be somebody else.”
Columbus has been among the top sources for robocalls because of the city’s large number of telemarketing companies. Statistics indicate that the area had more than 3,300 telemarketing workers last year, 97 percent more than would be expected in a region this size, said Columbus economist Bill LaFayette, owner of the consulting firm Regionomics.
Here are some suggestions to help from the Federal Trade Commission:
• Federal Communications Commission regulations prohibit telemarketers from using automated dialers to call cellphone numbers without prior consent. Automated dialers are standard in the industry, so most telemarketers are barred from calling consumers’ cellphones.
• There is only one Do Not Call Registry, operated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), with information available at donotcall.gov. There is no separate registry for cellphones.
• The Do Not Call Registry accepts registrations from both cellphones and land lines. To register by telephone, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236). You must call from the phone number that you want to register. To register online (donotcall.gov), you will have to respond to a confirmation email.
• If you already have registered a telephone number, you don’t need to re-register. Once registered, a telephone number stays on the Do Not Call Registry until the registration is canceled or service for the number is discontinued.