I-Team: Can a new law help prevent robocalls?

Regulating Robocalls | I-Team Investigation

MIAMI VALLEY — With annoying, and in some cases illegal, robocalls increasing in the Miami Valley, supporters say a new law will do more to protect you from scammers.

Industry experts estimate about 45% of robocalls in the Miami Valley are scams.

>> RELATED: Ohio AG Yost part of initiative to deal with illegal robocalls

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But a new federal law aims to block would-be thieves from getting to you.

An I-Team investigation with News Center 7’s Molly Koweek revealed why this problem got so bad in recent years and what this change will do.

From student loans, extended car warranties and threatening to shut off your electricity, robocall scammers will give plenty of different excuses, but they all have a goal.

“It makes you think, like do I owe money somewhere?” said Jeremy Tkach of Dayton.

University of Dayton law professor Thaddeus Hoffmeister says that’s exactly what they want.

“The key of social engineering is to get you to do something you wouldn’t normally do,” he said.

For Amara Johnson, it was a student loan scam two years ago.

“And they actually weren’t,” she said. “They were calling to get my bank account information.”

She was lucky. Her bank caught what was happening and she didn’t lose any money.

During that same time, data from YouMail, a robocall blocking app, showed people here in the 937 area code received nearly 17 million robocalls.

And then last year, the number was up to just over 19 million.

But that’s not nearly as bad as Atlanta, where people received almost 182 million robocalls.

“Dayton actually isn’t doing so bad,” said Alex Quilici, CEO of YouMail. “I think you are getting somewhere between 13 and 15 robocalls per person a month.”

His advice for dealith with robocalls? Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize.

“In general, if you can you should let it roll to voicemail,” he said. “Because a lot of robocallers will just hang up.”

But Frank Graci, owner of The Flying Pizza in Dayton, doesn’t have that luxury.

While he’s at work, he has to answer every call, no matter the number, because it could be someone placing an order.

“It’s a pain, but who get affected is the customers,” he said. “Because they don’t get the full attention that they should be getting because of a robocall.”

And as criminals target people like Graci, even using area codes that appear local, supports say a new law targets the thieves.

The Traced Act increases the fines on criminal robocalls.

Hoffmeister said the law’s more significant aspect will make phone companies verify numbers from incoming robocalls and block the illegal ones.

“They’re requiring the phone companies to get up to speed to change their method,” he said.

Quilici, who supports the law, said it’s still not a perfect fix.

“I think the Traced Act is a nice speed bump, but it’s not a wall,” he said. “It’s going to be harder to get a spoofed number through, so the bad guys are going to have to get real numbers and have to get the real numbers through.”

For people who want to call back an unfamiliar phone number, Quilici said to search the phone number online first to see if it’s real.

He also suggested blocking a robocall blocking app while the phone companies sort out their new technology.