Local consumers support proposed Ohio spoof, robocall bill

CLEVELAND — Olympia and Steve Kallaman of Parma are showing their support for Ohio Senate Bill 54, giving the state more authority to prosecute robocallers, or those who perpetuate phone scams, after $22,000 was taken from their Coinbase account back on Aug. 16.

The couple said the money was taken by a con-artist after they called a legitimate Coinbase phone number and thought they were talking to an actual Coinbase representative.

Steve Kallman believes the Coinbase computer network may have been hacked allowing the con-artist to use a legitimate phone number. The couple has since hired an attorney and will soon go to arbitration with Coinbase to try and recover their stolen funds.

Steve Kallman said anything that would give the state more power to crackdown on phone scams is a good thing.

“By subcontracting to the Ohio Attorney General that can only help,” Steve Kallman said. “This is going to be the wild, wild west and people will lose millions and millions of dollars unless the state agencies step-up and help.”

Senate Bill 54 sponsor Theresa Gavarone, Ohio Senate District 2, (R) said if her legislation is signed into law by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, it would allow Ohio’s Attorney General to add civil penalties of up to $1,500 for each robocall or spoofing caller ID violation.

The measure is also calling for a five year statute of limitations of phone fraud cases and serious criminal penalties that could include jail time.

“The idea of this bill is really to make Ohio the toughest state in the nation to conduct a robocall scheme,” Gavarone said. “It also enhances penalties to a fourth degree felony if the victim is elderly, an adult with disabilities or is an active member of the military…It’s just unconscionable the way these bad actors come in and try to trick people out of their money.”

Senate Bill 54 co-sponsor Rep. Juanita Brent, Ohio House District 12 (D), said the legislation will allow Ohio to take action against con-artists without having to wait for the Federal Communications Commission to approve greater accountability on telecommunications companies who are incorrectly providing legitimate business numbers to phone fraudsters who use the numbers in caller ID scams.

“So many have lost money, they lost their retirement, they lost their savings, one person almost even jeopardized their home,” Brent said. “This is what this bill is doing, it says ‘enough is enough, you’re not going to keep scamming Ohioans.’…For the longest the Attorney General has been left with his hands tied because we were waiting for the federal level to do something.”

On Nov. 17, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost reported his office received 702 consumer complaints concerning spoofing and robocalls in just the first 16 days of November, even though he reported robocalls are down 26% nationwide since Oct. 2019 due to stepped up robocall surveillance.

Alex Quilici, CEO of YouMail, a mobile phone app which replaces mobile phone voicemail and protects a consumer’s ringer and voicemail box from scam robocalls, agreed tougher state laws and penalties will help in reducing the number of scam call victims.

However, Quilici believes consumer app technology is still really the best line of defense.

“When you can take out someone who is making 100 million calls, 200 million calls every month, it matters,” Quilici said. “The biggest thing that will help the robocall problem now is for consumers to put call protection apps on their phone, and not just calling random numbers back that call them. If consumers do that they’re going to get far fewer calls coming through and that makes it tougher for the bad guys.”

Meanwhile, Gavarone is hoping the governor will sign Senate Bill 54 into law before the end of the year, and said the law would take about 90 days to go into effect.


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