NC lawmakers targeting robocalls after new wave charges you for answering

Consumer Watch
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State lawmakers are trying to outlaw a new type of phone scam that charges you money when you answer the phone to see who is calling you.

Victims across the state are getting new scam calls that stop after a ring or two. The callers hope the person on the other end finds them annoying so they’ll answer the phone quickly.

“What the scammer is trying to do is generate curiosity,” said Bryan Oglesby with the Better Business Bureau.

The FCC has issued warnings about what it calls the “one ring scam.” It said the criminals making the calls hope the victim pick up the phone so they can begin charging money.

Here’s how it works:

“It’s similar to calling a 900 number, which charges you as much as $19,” Oglesby said.

Once on the hook, the scammers then try and rack up the amount of money the victim is being charged.

“They try and keep you on the phone, put you on hold, play music, and charge you as much as $9 a minute,” Oglesby said.

And they like to call, over and over again, in the middle of the night to catch a person unaware.

CBS 17 looked at one person’s recent caller list on their phone. It contained seven consecutive calls in a short period of time between Friday night and early Saturday morning.  

All of the calls came from the same suspicious area codes.

The calls originate from the “222″ and “232” area codes, which are from the West African nations of Mauritania and Sierra Leone.

Many of these calls use a spoofed caller ID claiming they are from the United States.

Service providers like AT&T are also issuing warnings about those calls and telling customers how to recognize out-of-country area codes…

“These calls are such an annoyance,” said House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland County). “But, it’s more than an annoyance because it’s actually costing people money because they’ve been defrauded by scam artists.”

That’s why the house voted unanimously last Friday on a bill called the Truth In Caller ID Act. It will make it illegal to spoof a phone number in this state.

“They are committing an unfair and deceptive trade practice,” said Moore. “They can be held civilly liable for treble damages which are a type of punitive damages and attorney’s fees.”

Admittedly, with spoofed calls that originate from overseas, it will have to be the feds who will have to deal with that aspect of spoofed calls. However, the state bill does give North Carolina law enforcement more tools on the local level.

“It’s principally designed to get those scam artists calling people trying to prey on them,” said Moore.

The bill also covers fraudulent texts which scammers also send out.

Given the fact that the entire house approved it unanimously, Moore believes the Senate will do much the same thing before passing it on to the governor to sign.

If approved, it would become law by the end of December.

You can follow the progress of House Bill 724 here.

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