COLUMBUS — An anti-robocall initiative launched six months ago by Attorney General Dave Yost has empowered Ohioans to report 27,931 illegal robocalls in an effort to help the Attorney General fight back against the growing nuisance. In turn, the Robocall Enforcement Unit has analyzed and shared the incoming data to try to put a stop to these illegal calls and texts, including filing a lawsuit to stop this behavior in June.
In March 2020, the Robocall Enforcement Unit – part of Yost’s Consumer Protection Section dedicated to rooting out bad actors at every level of the robocall industry – launched with the slogan, “Just don’t answer,” designed to encourage Ohioans to not answer or reply to phone numbers they do not recognize.
Today, AG Yost reminds consumers, whether the call is a robocall or if it has a live person on the other line, the best advice to follow continues to be just don’t answer. Other general tips to help combat robocalls include:
- Never interact with a suspected scam robocaller in any way.
- Avoid providing personal or financial information by phone.
- Carefully review terms and conditions when opting-in on websites that request a telephone number.
- Register your phone number with the Do Not Call Registry online at DoNotCall.gov or by phone at 1-888-382-1222. However, know that political and polling/research calls from live callers are generally permitted as exceptions to the Do Not Call laws but robocalls to mobile numbers require prior express consent.
- Research services offered by your phone provider or apps to block unwanted calls.
“Scammers follow the news and create variations of common scams based on current events,” Yost said. “Among other things, the public should be on guard for scams related to COVID, charitable donations, and the upcoming election in an attempt to defraud them of personal information and money through robocalls and text messages.”
Earlier this year, a Delaware County woman claimed a scammer called pretending to be her grandson and asked her to send money so he could get home because he was stuck out-of-state due to the pandemic. Another Ohio resident reported a fraudulent text message directing her to click a special link to “accept” her COVID-19 stimulus payment. In other instances, scammers have claimed to represent government agencies in an attempt to gain bank account information under the guise of needing such data for a COVID-19 stimulus payment.
Scammers are always ready to take advantage of peoples’ generosity. Scammers may call or text posing as charitable organizations and ask for donations – possibly for COVID-relief or research, or even hurricane-relief funds. In reality, the money only goes to line the scammer’s pockets.
To avoid potential charitable scams, follow these tips:
- Do not assume that charity recommendations on social media sites have already been vetted. Donors should see if charities are registered with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office by clicking here.
- Be cautious of “look-alike” websites and charities with names that sound similar to well-known organizations. Sometimes they are simply intended to confuse donors.
- Watch out for emotional appeals. Scammers know it just takes a click to donate online and can capitalize on the convenience and spirit of giving with fake pictures and stories.
- Donors can also check the following resources to learn more about specific charities: IRS Select Check, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and GuideStar.
As scammers tailor their schemes to reflect the news of the day, Ohioans should expect similar ploys involving the upcoming election and voting.
“Our nation’s enemies are working hard to disrupt our election, and others may be using it to line their own pockets by attempting to scam voters,” said Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. “Don’t fall for it. Do your due diligence. Your vote matters, so make sure you get your information about the election from trusted sources.”
To avoid potential election-related scams, follow these tips:
- Only utilize trusted websites from county boards of elections or the Secretary of State’s VoteOhio.gov website for information about voter registration, polling locations, absentee voting, and much more.
- Know that most legitimate government websites end in .gov or .us, while most political/non-profit organizations’ websites end in .org or .com.
- If you’re voting by mail, track your ballot at VoteOhio.gov/Track
If you want to report potential disinformation about election administration, send an e-mail to Report@OhioSoS.gov.
Don’t feel pressure to donate to any political organization without finding out more about the group to ensure it’s legitimate. Never donate via gift cards, wire transfer or prepaid money card – the preferred payment methods of scammers.
Report calls to the Robocall Enforcement Unit by texting “ROBO” to 888111 and answering a set of questions that take less than a minute to complete. Consumers also can file complaints by visiting OhioProtects.org or calling 1-800-282-0515. Even if a robocall does not cause a financial loss, reporting it to the unit can help investigators identify trends and protect other Ohioans from becoming victims.