SCHERERVILLE | Consumer protection for Hoosiers ranks as one of the two major focuses for the Indiana Attorney General’s office, Greg Zoeller told those attending Friday’s Lake County Advancement Committee luncheon at Teibel’s Restaurant.
“The role of the attorney general is to represent the state government in court, but in consumer protection cases, we are the client. We have the authority to represent the citizens of Indiana. We are the consumer advocate,” said Zoeller, who was elected last November to his second term as Indiana Attorney General.
Among the cases Zoeller’s office has vigorously pursued on behalf of Indiana residents is the “do not call list.” However, he said, in the last two years that movement has “lost a lot of ground because of voice over internet protocols.”
VOIP is a new technology that allows robocalls generated from foreign countries to hit American phone numbers at the rate of 10,000 per minute, according to Zoeller. That’s more than the reach of some radio stations, he said.
Zoeller called the Federal Communications Commission’s response to VOIP “antiquated” because the FCC has ruled these robocalls are protected under the right of free speech.
“What about the freedom to be left alone in our own homes?” he said. “This is harassment.”
Robocalls and online solicitations for products or services also produce the vast majority of consumer fraud cases, which the Attorney General’s office tracks based on complaints at www.indianaconsumer.com.
Among the top complaints last year were for used auto sales and service, internet solicitations, credit repair companies, debt collection services, telemarketing by individuals, home repairs, identify theft, retail sales, landlord/tenant problems and wireless phones, he said.
Zoeller advised all Hoosiers to do two things to prevent consumer fraud.
“Always generate your own research. Always generate your own calls, even if you want what someone is selling,” he said. “Don’t go through the solicitation (on the phone or the Internet). Don’t respond. You make the calls.”
Indiana is one of a handful of states that allows residents to put a security freeze on their credit files online free of charge, Zoeller said. A freeze blocks an identity thief from opening a new account or obtaining credit and keeps new creditors from accessing a credit report without permission, he said.
“It takes about 10 minutes, and you can unfreeze the reports if you want to open a new credit card account. That takes about 10 minutes and it automatically closes in three days,” he said.
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