THE NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: New law would help stop nuisance phone calls

Hoosiers have had it with unwanted telephone calls. And we think a bill that passed the Indiana House this week could help stop this growing problem.

Republican Rep. Jeff Ellington of Bloomington is the author of House Bill 1123, which is designed to help prosecutors in charging people who use automatic dialing systems to make unsolicited calls. Such calls violate federal laws as well as Indiana’s Do Not Call law. urges the Legislature to follow through on this proposal as the bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Ellington says that, like almost everybody else in Indiana, he gets these nuisance calls repeatedly every day.

“We need to prosecute these bad actors who are such a nuisance,” Ellington told the Bloomington Herald-Times. “I hear complaints on a daily basis from Hoosiers who are getting these calls at home and on their cellphones. If we can better locate and prosecute offenders while increasing fines, others may be inclined to stop.”

Indiana has more than 2 million phone numbers on its Do Not Call list, a service that took effect in 2002. Back then the results were immediate. But now the increase in technological tricks helps solicitors and scammers to bypass the safeguards and invade our privacy hour after hour, day after day.

Hoosiers by the thousands report these illegal calls to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office each year as well to the state’s consumer hotline.

Ellington says Hoosiers shouldn’t have to put up with nuisance calls. A primary provision in the bill he introduced would be to increase the amounts of fines he thinks could lead to quicker settlements. The bill would also broaden the range of who is considered a telephone solicitor and would include a requirement for solicitors to register with the state.

The bill also recommends a summer study committee review of increasing penalties for those who violate telephone solicitation statutes.

We support the bill and encourage Indiana citizens to urge their legislators to pass it. In the meantime, here are some tips from the FCC website that can help stop unwanted robocalls and avoid phone scams:

– Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you do, hang up immediately.

– Beware that caller ID showing a supposedly local number does not prove it is a local caller.

– If you do answer the phone and are asked to hit a button to stop getting the calls, just hang up.

– 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.

– If a caller 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.

– Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.

– Hackers can spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voice mail if you do not set a password.

To register your phone number on the Do Not Call List to block telemarketing calls, or to file a complaint, go to online.