Runestad introduces bill targeting phone fraud

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Runestad introduced a bill Tuesday that would target phone fraud in Michigan.

Senate Bill 647 would create state penalties for the act known as “phone spoofing” to give more options for state prosecution of these crimes.

Sen. Jon Bumstead introduced a companion bill, SB 648, which adds the sentencing guidelines into the criminal code.

Phone spoofing is when a caller changes caller ID to any number other than the actual calling number.

“Sometimes a camouflaged call can be your own personal phone line, and you may receive an angry call from a stranger wondering why you are harassing them,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “While disguising your phone number is not illegal, doing so with the intent to commit fraud is.”

The legislation would make it a state felony for a person to commit phone spoofing with the intent to commit fraud. Violators would face up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. A telecommunications service provider would not be liable for the crime.

Spoofers can also use caller IDs that reflect local telephone numbers to get you to answer your phone. The Federal Communications Commission reports that unwanted calls are the largest consumer complaint to the agency. Some analysts estimate that U.S. consumers receive nearly 4 billion robocalls per month.

The AARP reported a scam last year that targeted seniors in which the spoofers used a phone number from the Social Security Administration on their caller ID.

Earlier this year, Runestad introduced a similar bill to crack down on the skyrocketing problem of mail theft in Michigan. That measure, now Public Act 48 of 2019, was signed into law in September.

SBs 647 and 648 have been referred to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee for consideration.