Nearly every adult in Louisiana has been negatively affected by the proliferation of exasperating and sometimes fraudulent phone solicitations in recent years, and it is a difficult problem to solve.
Legislators adopted a law this year aimed at the relatively new practice by telemarketers and scam artists of using fake area codes, prefixes and locations to encourage recipients of these unwanted calls to accept them.
People here and across North Louisiana are receiving robocalls and telemarketing contacts on both landlines and cell phones that come up as calls from this area code and even from Natchitoches or nearly towns and cities.
A high percentage of those calls are answered by unsuspecting targets of telemarketers. The people receiving the calls assume they are legitimate since they appear to come from phones in this area.
The Louisiana law that went into effect last month is designed to curtail the so-called “ID spoofing” schemes that result in fake area codes and locations coming up on caller ID systems.
Under that new statute, victims who lose money or are harmed in other ways by those calls can file suits against individuals or companies that use false information on caller identification systems to encourage people to accept the calls.
Victims filing successful suits can recover up to three times the damages they suffer plus attorney fees and can get injunctions to stop future calls.
The law also allows state and local law enforcement officials to impose civil penalties of up to $10,000 in addition to punishment for criminal charges.
Enforcement of the law will be difficult since many of the calls attempting to obtain personal information, get access to financial accounts or to carry out other scams are from foreign countries.
There has been a “Do Not Call” law on the books in Louisiana for years requiring telemarketers to register with the Public Service Commission and to avoid calls to people on the “Do Not Call” list.
But companies are circumventing that law by using robocalls instead of direct calls. Also, most of the calls now are to cell phones, which fall under federal rather than state laws and regulations.
Studies show that people nationwide have received 20.3 billion robocalls this year, or more than 120 per person. Consumer Reports estimates that phone scams are costing people in the United States $350 million a year.
The new Louisiana law is an admirable first step toward addressing this mushrooming financial threat and invasion of privacy, but much more state and federal regulation is needed to stop these relentless and dangerous calls.