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State efforts to combat robocalls underway

November 21, 2019
<p>Design by Courtney McKown</p>

Design by Courtney McKown

A new state bill introduced aims to make scamming harder for robocallers. 

Senate bill 0647 would make it illegal for telemarketers and fraudsters to mask their phone number or trick caller ID into displaying a false name or number. Those convicted under this bill would be sentenced to up to six years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. 

Bill author and State Senator Jim Runestad said he regularly receives complaints from senior citizens about robocalls. 

“It’s very frustrating and they feel, as do I, that they should be calling from the number where they’re at,” Runestad said.

Runestad said he is among those tricked by the scam. 

“My wife and I each picked up a phone call from a 248 area code and it turns out it was from another state or country — we aren’t even sure,” Runestad said. 

State efforts to combat robocalls have increased in recent months. Attorney General Dana Nessel released a statement Nov. 15 warning of a scam where callers falsely represent themselves as federal employees. 

In June, Nessel joined 25 other state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission in cracking down on robocalls.

“The scam artists are using spoofing technology, which allows them to appear as a local caller in an attempt to steal personal information, including Social Security numbers, from Michigan residents,” Nessel said.

In an additional statement , Nessel announced the state’s efforts to crack down on robocalls and spoofing.

“Spoofing” is a practice where scam callers mask their phone numbers with fakes ones in an effort to trick call recipients into answering.  

“There is nothing more annoying, more intrusive, uninvited and unwelcome than robocalls,” Nessel said in the statement. “Because of that bombardment of calls, more and more Michiganders end up falling victim to the avalanche of illegal robocall scams targeting them each day. We are working to put a stop to that starting right now.”

Runestad said the bill has received bipartisan support and that he is sure it will make it to the governor’s desk for signing.

Kelly Rossman-McKinney, Nessel’s communications director, said Runestad’s bill was a “step in the right direction.” 

“Older adults are particularly vulnerable to the unscrupulous tactics of scammers,” said Tammy Lemmer, Tri County Office on Aging Community Relations and Grants Manager.

While Runestad says that seniors have voiced concerns, MSU students are also battling scam robocalls. 

“I have (gotten robocalls) but they’ve all been in Chinese,” said anthropology senior Carolyn Faulkner. “I’ve gotten calls that say ‘scam likely’ and I’ve gotten some that show up as though they are numbers from this area.” 

Runestad said robocalls are among the top “three to five” issues that are brought up when speaking to senior citizens. 

“It really irks the seniors ... to think, ‘OK, this is my friend,’ … or someone from the local community or church or whatever, and it’s a telemarketing call,” Runestad said. “It really grinds them.”

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