Indiana lawmakers look to address telemarketing issues

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Indiana lawmakers are looking for new ways to address illegal and unwanted telephone calls as telemarketers use advances in technology to skirt the state's telemarketing law.

There are 2.1 million phone numbers on Indiana's "Do Not Call" list, which is stricter than the federal list, The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne reported .

The state saw immediate results when the law went into effect in 2002, but advances in technology are allowing telemarketers to find loopholes. Some telemarketers now use "spoof" numbers to make it appear as if a call is coming from a local area.

Rep. Ryan Hatfield, D-Evansville, said Indiana's current efforts don't appear to be working or doing enough to address the situation.

"I would favor a complete overhaul of the system," he said. "I find it unacceptable that we throw up our hands and say we can do nothing."

Rep. Jeff Ellington, R-Bloomington, is preparing a bill to address the issue for the 2019 legislative session, which begins in January. The bill will propose higher fines, which could lead to faster settlements with telemarketers.

Ellington said Indiana needs to invest more to combat the issue that he characterizes as an "intrusion on residential homes and businesses."

"I'm just fed up, and hopefully we can accomplish something," he said.

Former state Sen. David Long was behind the original telemarking law, which allows residents to register their numbers on a do-not-call list. There are exceptions for charities, political calls and businesses that residents have an existing relationship with.

"We came up with a solution that was fair and reasoned," Long said. "It's very possible that the whole concept needs a review. I get calls constantly."

Betsy DeNardi, the director and chief counsel of Consumer Protection for Indiana's attorney general's office, said there are a few issues hampering the law. She said the attorney general's office doesn't have jurisdiction over calls placed from outside the U.S., which means a large portion of calls are untouchable.

DeNardi said the biggest issue is that many calls aren't coming from legitimate telemarketers, but are from scammers looking to steal money or information for identify theft.

"They don't care," DeNardi said.

Attorney General Curtis Hill said he's committed to continue working to protect Indiana residents against nuisance callers.

"I especially want to continue working with federal authorities to combat nuisance calls coming from overseas and to counter the cutting-edge technologies used by nuisance callers to avoid being identified and penalized," he said.

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