JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri residents are receiving phone calls from scammers, and many senior citizens are losing money because of it. Lawmakers are trying to beef up state regulations to deal with the growing problem.
“It’s Sunday afternoon, you’re watching the Chiefs, then all of a sudden you get a phone call, you look at your phone and it has the number of a relative, the name and the phone number,” said Rep. Jeff Porter, R-Montgomery City.
“You answer the phone. It is not your family member, it’s somebody else who’s trying to sell you sweepstakes, trying to sell you some kind of product, so there’s deception, aggravating as you were watching Mahomes take it all the way,” Porter said.
House Bill 242 includes a “Caller ID Anti-Spoofing Act,” which makes caller identification fraud with the intent to deceive the recipient on the other line a Class E felony offense. For recipients of a fraudulent call, this bill would provide grounds for recovering up to $5,000 per call and would allow for legal action to be taken under this section.
After attempts to pass a similar bill last year were halted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Porter, the bill’s sponsor, said it should be a high priority to pass legislation that protects vulnerable adults. Porter said he knows a family member who lost thousands of dollars in the past year as a result of caller ID fraud. And federal officials have warned of scams that prey on coronavirus fears.
Rep. Nick Schroer, R-St.Charles, said caller ID fraud is one of the biggest complaints he receives from constituents. He said many of these constituents block numbers and add themselves to the state or federal “no-call” list but that it does not solve the problem.
“We need to get the Attorney General more teeth to go after these companies,” Schroer said. “From my understanding, the investigations that have occurred on some of these companies are linking them back to different countries, even though they are using the technology to make it appear as though a valid number is calling them from either Missouri or the US.”
Schroer said that despite advancements with Apple products where some calls show up as “spam risk” and features that allow you to block unknown calls, many fraudulent companies have figured out how to make a call show up as the number of a personal contact.
“I don’t believe that our seniors need to be putting up with this,” Schroer said.
Even with social media efforts to encourage senior citizens to stay alert for caller ID fraud, the state needs legislation to stop the problem, according to Schroer, who addressed the issue with Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office and former Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office back in 2018.
The bill received bipartisan support among members of the Committee on Small Business and no objections. As Schroer puts it, “Bipartisan love early in session, there you go.”