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‘Spoofing’ ban gets House OK

May 4, 2019 GMT

House lawmakers voted unanimously Friday to ban telemarketers from using fake numbers to get people to answer the phone or respond to a text.

The practice is known as “spoofing” or “cloning,” and it’s commonly used by scammers posing as tax collectors or kidnappers. But even some legitimate telemarketers often use what’s called “neighbor spoofing” to make their calls or texts appear to be coming from local numbers.

Under House Bill 724, telemarketers who use misleading information to hide the origin of their calls could be sued by a citizen or fined from $500 to $5,000 by the state attorney general.

Asked how the bill would work, House Speaker Tim Moore, the bill’s sponsor, said consumers could write down the number, date and time of the call and send it to the Attorney General’s Office, which could then force telecom carriers to trace the call’s actual origin.

“There are ways to track that electronically,” said Moore, R-Cleveland. “They actually have the capability to show where that number originated from.”

Moore conceded it would be difficult to pursue calls originating in other countries, but he said the Federal Communications Commission is also working on the issue at a global level.

“It’s not a silver bullet, but it does give us a starting point,” said Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln.

The measure passed 113-0, with members on both sides speaking in favor of it.

“Anybody who’s ever gotten a sales call late at night from the Philippines from your own phone number - they know what this is about,” agreed Rep. Dana Bumgardner, R-Gaston.

“For a while, I was getting so many of those calls, I thought I was important,” joked Rep. Elmer Floyd, D-Cumberland.

The bill now goes to the Senate.