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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, September 12, 2018 1:00 am

State reps hung up on scam calls

Do Not Call list oversight criticized by committee

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Lawmakers criticized Indiana's Do Not Call list Tuesday while state officials tasked with enforcing the law said it was never intended to deal with scammers.

It was aimed at aggressive telemarketers selling coffins or insurance. But Marguerite Sweeney, senior deputy attorney general, said 70 percent of unwanted calls now are scams – not simply annoying telemarketing.

“Scammers are criminals,” she said. “They don't care about a list.”

The most popular scams the state sees are phishing – or claiming to be an IRS agent or someone else to get money. Credit service scams that promise lower rates are the next most popular type of scam.

Sweeney spoke to an interim study committee examining automatic dialing machines, robocalls and cybersecurity.

“What part of it is working?” Rep. Ryan Hatfield, D-Evansville, asked of the state's telephone solicitation law. “I get a ton of calls.”

Rep. Alan Morrison, R-Brazil, followed up by saying “Whatever we're doing does not work right now.”

Sweeney said her office received thousands of complaints every year and does sometimes track them to legitimate telemarketers who are illegally using numbers on the list. Fines and settlements occur regularly.

But Douglas Swetnam, section chief for the attorney general's office, said the issue is a struggle.

“The velocity of changes as far as technology is one of the issues we are struggling to keep up with,” he said.

Swetnam said anyone go can on the web and download an application for $2 that allows you to use a number that isn't yours to make calls. This is called spoofing. So tracking the identity and location of the calls is difficult.

In addition to Indiana's Do Not Call list, state law prohibits the use of robocalls – or using automated prerecorded messages.

nkelly@jg.net