It was welcome news that Indiana’s attorney general and seven other state AGs had settled with two Texas phone scammers. It’s the kind of action that highlights one of the office’s most productive and valuable activities – consumer protection.
Unfortunately, Indiana and fellow plaintiffs will likely never see the $244 million from defendants Caldwell Spiller II and Jakob Mears, accused of harassing Hoosiers with more than 25 million robocalls touting bogus extended car warranties and health care insurance. In addition, more than 13.5 million calls were to people on the national Do Not Call Registry and 5 million were on Indiana’s Do Not Call List.
It would be great to see the pockets of Spiller and Mears turned out for their misdeeds. Still, the settlement sidelines the two from “initiating or facilitating” robocalls or working with companies that engage in any telemarketing.
It would be great, too, if this settlement were a deterrent. Data-protection firm YouMail said U.S. consumers received more than 50.3 billion automated calls in 2022 “despite widespread enforcement efforts by government regulators and state officials.”
According to the Federal Trade Commission, fraud by phone amounted to about $798 million in 2022.
Robocalls are cheap to make and easy to do with internet access. However, not all robocalls are illegal or malicious, such as school districts contacting parents or businesses alerting workers.
Indiana’s settlement with Spiller and Mears comes just weeks after bipartisan legislation was introduced in the U.S. House calling for stricter penalties for illegal robo- calls – including time behind bars.
The Do Not Call Act of 2023, introduced by Rep. David Kustoff, R-Tennessee, and Rep. Deborah Ross, D-North Carolina, would impose criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment, to deter robocalls.
As savage as the robocall nuisance has been, robotexts are also plaguing people and their mobile phones. Scam- protection firm Robo- killer reported Tuesday that Americans received 225 billion robotexts last year – an increase of 157% from 2021.
Not all robotexts are a prelude to fraud, but this form of contact was used to pilfer $20 billion from Americans, the report said.
Whether or not Congress or states enact new laws to protect Americans from swindlers, consumers need to be on guard not to be snared by their tactics. If harassed, contact the state attorney general’s office. It’s the office best equipped to apply pressure on grifters.