Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost wants to go after the scam artists who use inexpensive telecom technology to place 2.2 billion illegal robocalls to Ohioans each year but he needs help from consumers.
“Our goal is to make it so hard for robocallers to operate in Ohio that they don’t even bother trying,” Yost said at a Wednesday press conference. “We want those folks to go somewhere else — stop bothering Ohioans.”
Yost’s plan is threefold:
• Create an enforcement unit within the attorney general’s consumer protection section to go after robocallers.
• Seek legislative changes to broaden the attorney general’s authority to address the issue.
• Get Ohioans to report details on illegal robocalls they receive so the data can be used to prosecute bad actors.
Yost wants Ohioans to text ROBO to 888111 when they receive an illegal robocall. The AG’s office will respond by text with a link to a form consumers can fill out, detailing the robocall number, time and date of the call, and other info.
The best practice is to not answer calls from unrecognized numbers, Yost said, because people who respond to robocalls are added to other call lists, leading to more robocalls.
State Sen. Dave Burke, R-Marysville, who is sponsoring legislation to expand the attorney general’s authority, said small business owners such as plumbers or contractors often have to answer unfamiliar calls. Robocalls are annoying and diminish productivity for such businesses, he said.
Yost noted that some robocalls, such as doctor appointment reminders or school snow day alerts, are legal.
Voice over Internet Protocol technology allows millions of calls to be placed at a very low cost, Yost said, leading to the surge in illegal robocalls.
The Industry Traceback Group, led by a telecom industry trade association, is tracing and identifying illegal robocalls and helping states build legal cases against them. And federal legislation passed in late 2019 requires telecom companies to implement free systems to help consumers identify who is calling.
Ohioans have added more than 9.4 million numbers to the do not call registry and made nearly 215,000 complaints to the Federal Trade Commission last fiscal year.
An estimated 2.2 billion robocalls were placed in Ohio in 2019 — 178 per person on average, according to YouMail.
Consumers who do not want to receive most telemarketing sales calls can place their phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry, accessible at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222.
On average, the FTC estimates it receives one complaint for every 5,000 to 10,000 illegal calls made to consumers, officials say.
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