Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney, (R-Bergen) announced that he is working to stop the harassment and victimization of state residents from unwanted telemarketers whose actions range from annoying to significant fraudulent theft.
Rooney, a member of the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee, says current state and federal laws are inadequate to prevent unsuspecting people – especially the elderly – from becoming victims of scammers and con artists who steal sensitive information and money.
“Right now, there are too many loopholes in state and federal laws that purport to adequately protect consumers from unwanted intrusions. We need to close those loopholes and make the penalties for scammers much more severe,” said the assemblyman.
Rooney says he is working with the state Attorney General’s office to determine how to close the loopholes in existing laws and further restrict illicit telemarketing activities. The assemblyman says many consumers mistakenly believe they are protected from intrusive calls because they sign up for the federal Do Not Call registry, which is maintained by the Federal Trade Commission, but find that telemarketers and scammers keep coming.
“As many people have learned, signing up for the national Do Not Call registry does not stop unwanted calls from organizations looking for money or seeking to get personal information that can used to commit economic crimes against consumers,” said Rooney. “There needs to be joint state and federal action to tighten regulations to protect people from tele-scammers.”
Rooney himself was recently contacted by scammers posing as U.S. Treasury agents who said he was accused of tax fraud and was given a number to contact in order to avoid arrest or legal action. The US Treasury Department is aware of various scams perpetrated in the agency’s name by telephone and email and encourages individuals to report the scams through their online portal: https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml
While governments try to catch up to telephone scammers and cybercriminals, consumers need to be aware of how telemarketers and scammers can legally gain access to their personal information and what to do to avoid being victimized. Rooney says anti-fraud information needs to be more widely circulated and consumers should be kept abreast of the latest developments in telecommunications rules.
Scammers can be incredibly cunning, using prizes, products or services as bait. They create alarming scenarios for consumers that they claim can be remedied if the person gives them access to their computer or personal information. Government agencies advise consumers to leave calls from unknown telephone numbers unanswered. Never give any personal information over the telephone – especially credit card and bank account numbers and Social Security numbers.
“Consumer fraud through various telemarketing schemes is an illicit billion-dollar-per-year industry that often hits hardest against the elderly and those least able to fight back. I think it is very important for governments to apply more resources to help these victims,” said Rooney.