Last year, more than 23-thousand Ohioans complained to the Attorney General's office about unwanted robocalls.

Now, beginning March 2nd, a new state law will help crack down on companies who use technology to create a phony caller ID.

The unwanted practice is called "spoofing." It's when robocallers use a phone number that might look familiar to your area code in an attempt to get you to pick up the phone. 

Senate Bill 54 makes any attempt to use technology to create these inaccurate or misleading caller ID's illegal. The new law also increases the penalty for spoofing to a felony of the fourth degree when the victim is an elderly person, adult with disabilities, or an active duty service member or their spouse.

Here are some of the changes in law that will provide the Attorney General more tools to take legal action.

1.) SB 54 allows the AG to take action against third parties, such as voice service providers, for assisting robocallers.

The AG's Office provided the following example:

  • Let’s say a call comes in and the robocall claims to be a debt collector or is posing as the IRS, under this new prohibition, the Attorney General can take legal action against a voice service provider for facilitating the call. 
  • Before SB 54, the Attorney General's Office was limited to bringing actions against third parties for assisting callers that violate the TSR (Telemarketing Sales Rule) only and could only file those actions in federal court. With the passage of SB 54, the AG can now bring an action against the third parties for assisting robocallers that send the non-sales calls and violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Those actions can be presented in state court. 

2. ) SB 54 also allows the Attorney General to use the Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act if the deceptive calls take place during the course of a consumer transaction. 

The AG's Office provided the following example:

  • We all have received those car warranty calls claiming you can extend your warranty. That is a deceptive robocall and the AG can now bring violations of the Consumer Protection Act because they are claiming to sell you something.

3.) SB 54 also authorizes the Attorney General to prosecute violations of spoofing and telecommunication fraud if a county prosecutor declines to present to grand jury within 45 days after being presented evidence.

Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission to protect yourself from robocallers:

  • Don't answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
  • If you answer the phone and the caller - or a recording - asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, you should just hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.
  • Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with "Yes."
  • Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother's maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
  • If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company's or government agency's website to verify the authenticity of the request. You will usually get a written statement in the mail before you get a phone call from a legitimate source, particularly if the caller is asking for a payment.
  • Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
  • If you have a voice mail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voice mail if you do not set a password.
  • Talk to your phone company about call blocking tools they may have and check into apps that you can download to your mobile device to block unwanted calls.
  • If you use robocall-blocking technology already, it often helps to let that company know which numbers are producing unwanted calls so they can help block those calls for you and others.
  • To block telemarketing calls, register your number on the Do Not Call List. Legitimate telemarketers consult the list to avoid calling both landline and wireless phone numbers on the list.