Robocalls are pre-recorded messages that are delivered via telephone. These calls are typically initiated by an auto-dialer, a device, or software that automatically dials phone numbers. Unlike spam calls, which are totally unwanted calls, not all robocalls are unwanted. Some robocalls can be programmed for specific times or reasons to serve as a reminder for an event.
Robocalls are relatively cheaper than regular phone calls and can be used to disseminate information to many people in very little time. For this reason, they are used by legitimate telemarketers as a marketing tool. Generally, telemarketers require permission from an individual before robocalling the person. However, because of its usefulness as a means of disseminating information, the following types of robocalls can be made to a person without permission:
- Political calls and messages
- Certain calls from hospitals and healthcare providers
- Calls concerning debt collection
- Messages that are strictly meant to inform
- Messages from charities (these types of calls are typically only made to members of the charity or people that have previously donated to the charity)
What Are Ohio Robocall Scams?
Robocall scams are illegal robocalls made to a person without their permission or to obtain money, personal information, or both from them. Due to the low cost of robocalls, and their ability to reach many people in little time, robocall scams have become increasingly popular in Ohio. According to the Federal Trade Commission, a total of 126,144 robocall complaints were recorded in Ohio between September 2019 – September 2020.
Phone scammers typically incorporate robocalls into their scams by recording messages and spoofing their caller ID so that the receiver of the robocall believes the call is coming from the same area code that they reside in. This is known as neighborhood spoofing. Phone scammers also spoof their caller IDs to make it look like the robocall originated from a legitimate business, establishment, or government agency and ask the receiver to press a number to speak to a representative of the alleged organization.
Some key characteristics of Ohio robocall scams are:
- The call appears to be from a familiar number;
- The call pressures you to make a decision quickly;
- The call requests that you press a number to unsubscribe to further messages or to speak to a representative for additional information;
- The caller requests for payment, usually in the form of gift cards, wire transfers, or prepaid money cards
Does Ohio Have Anti-Robocall Laws?
The state of Ohio does not have any statutory laws related to robocalls. However, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office is empowered to enforce federal anti-robocall laws like the Telephone and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. In the course of performing its duties related to these laws, and as a means of curbing the rising menace of robocall scams in the state, the Office of the Ohio Attorney General announced the creation of a Robocall Enforcement Unit on March 4th, 2020, dedicated to tackling robocall scams.
Are There Special Requirements for Robocalls in Ohio?
The state of Ohio does not have any special requirements for robocalls. However, all robocalls initiated within the state must be done according to the requirements provided by federal robocall laws. These requirements are necessary to help the general public differentiate between legal and illegal robocalls and reduce robocall scams. Some robocall requirements are:
- Telemarketing robocalls can only be made to the owners of wireless and landline home phones that have given written consent to receive these calls;
- Political campaign messages cannot be made to cell phones, mobile devices, and protected phone lines without the consent of the receiver;
- Robocalls must state the identity of the person that initiated the call before the prerecorded message is read;
- The prerecorded message must contain the telephone number of the person that initiated the call. This number can be stated during or after the prerecorded message;
- If the call was initiated by a business or corporate establishment, then the official business name of this establishment must also be stated at the beginning of the prerecorded message;
- Robocall solicitations must be made between the hours of 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.;
- Auto-dialers used to initiate the robocalls must release the receiver’s telephone line not more than five seconds after the calling system receives a notification that the receiver has hung up.
Note that most robocall scammers typically disregard these rules. As a means of tackling illegal robocalls and caller ID spoofing, the Federal Communications Commission has mandated that phone companies implement the STIR/SHAKEN system before June 30, 2021.
How Do I Stop Robocalls?
The rising occurrences of unwanted robocalls and phone scams are issues that are taken seriously in the state of Ohio. At best, these unwanted robocalls are a nuisance to Ohioans, who have to contend with disruptions in their daily routine that these robocalls pose. On the other hand, robocall scams also pose a serious financial and security threat to many Ohioans, some of whom have lost money and privacy to phone scammers.
To reduce or stop receiving robocalls, you should consider doing the following:
- Register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry. Registration is free, and telemarketers are not allowed to contact a number that has been listed on this registry for more than 31 days;
- Do not answer any suspected robocalls or hang up as soon as you realize that the call is a robocall;
- Research the built-in options your phone has for blocking unwanted calls;
- Contact your phone service provider to find out the services they offer for blocking unwanted calls;
- Install an app that blocks or warns of calls that have been flagged as suspicious;
- Limit the number of businesses you share your phone number with;
- Report unwanted robocalls and suspected robocall scams to the Robocall Enforcement Unit of the Office of the Ohio Attorney General. This can be done online, by calling 1-800-282-0515, or by texting “ROBO” to 888111;
- File complaints concerning unwanted calls with the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission