How many times, even in the last month, much less the last year, have you received a phone call whereby your caller ID identified the caller as a call from some local business or person? Or, have you recently had someone call your mobile phone asking why you called them when you did not call them? I have, several times during the past few months. Obviously, someone used my cell phone number as the identifier for the number calling the recipient of the call; that person then “returned” my call based upon my number showing up on his phone with him wondering why I called. This illegal and unethical practice is called “spoofing.”
According to information provided in a Dec. 3, 2021 WHIO-Dayton news article, via the internet, two Texas companies recently spoofed over 56 million robocalls to Ohioans. In addition, according to the same news source, the Dayton area alone has received over 550,000 robocalls per day, with an estimated 31 percent of these calls being scams.
On the first of this month, December 2021, Governor DeWine signed Ohio Senate Bill 54, a law banning phone spoofing in Ohio. The new law supposedly outlaws the use of phone number spoofing whereby the recipient is lead to believe that a call is coming from a trusted source. Further, the law provides for additional penalties where spoofing is used to defraud those who are considered especially vulnerable, i.e., the elderly, disabled persons, along with active-duty service members and their spouses. Another release just says, “veterans.”
The new law authorizes Ohio’s Attorney General to enforce robocall violations, pursuing the violators in either state or federal courts, charging the violators with a fifth-degree felony, or a fourth-degree felony if it targets those identified above as especially vulnerable. If you are a victim of such fraudulent activity, you are encouraged to immediately call the Ohio Attorney General’s Robocall Enforcement Unit at 1-800-282-0515 or by visiting www. OhioProtect.org.
While I applaud the state of Ohio Legislature for trying to protect Ohio citizens from such annoying practices, at the same time, I have to wonder how effective such a state law can be. In actuality, a federal anti-spoofing law has been in place since 2010. “The Truth In Caller ID Act “prohibits the use of misleading or inaccurate caller-ID information to intentionally defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.” Current penalties under the statute are $10,000 per violation with a maximum fine of $1 million.”
Then, on Nov. 22, 2021, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation unanimously approved the Anti-Spoofing Penalties Modernization Act of 2021 and sent it to the full Senate for approval. The bill, SB. 594, was introduced in March of 2021 by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and was originally co-sponsored by Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Gary Peters (D-MI). It would “double the penalties for illegal caller-ID “spoofing,” to $20,000 and $2 million, respectively.
While I can fathom how a state Attorney General might be able to prosecute such illegal activity which is being propagated in another U.S. territory, I don’t see how he will stop such fraudulent activity which is being perpetrated from a foreign country such as India, China, or the West Indies, or a thousand other countries around the world. So far, a federal statute with some rather severe financial penalties has not stemmed the tide, so how is a single state going to do better? Believe me, I hope it does, but I am from Missouri, the “Show Me” state.