Scam calls may soon be a crime

The Public Service Commission is looking to crack down on telemarketers.

Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said they are working to get a law passed during the 2019 Legislative Session that would make it a crime for telemarketers to call and harass Mississippians.

“I call these people predators because I think they are predators,” Presley said. “Most of the time they are using a computer program to do mass dialings they can make millions of phone calls in a matter of minutes and Mississippians are plagued by this. This is a scurge on the consuming public, make no doubt about it.”

Presley said there are two ways to solve the problem, with technology and with enforcement.

“They are using technology to scam the system, they are using technology to go around using correct caller i.d.,” Presley said. “I am going to ask the legislature next year to make it a crime, punishable by jail time to make an illegal telemarking marketing call. I am sure the first one would be a misdemeanor, but you ought to end up in the state penitentiary at Parchman if you continue to call Mississippians and violate our no call law. It’s time to make it a crime.”

If the legislation is created and passed, Presley said Mississippi would be the only one to have such a law.

“We’ve gone from someone trying to sell you some little silly item, to today people trying to steal from the public, they are calling and threatening people,” Presley said. “They are using every tactic in the world and there is no difference in predatory telemarketing and telephone harassment, none. Both of them ought to land your rear end in jail for doing it.”

Presley added that the PSC is working on sponsoring legislation that would allow each Mississippian to file their own lawsuit if they have been called.

“Right now when we fine a telemarketer, or we get a fine or settlement fee in, that goes to the state, but the state is not the one who got the phone call,” Presley said. “The state is not the one who got supper interrupted. The victim in telemarketing are the people who got the calls. We ought to allow them to have their own separate action. Let’s scare the devil out of these telemarketers by facing not only a criminal penalty but also by being sued $5,000 per call by individuals who have been the victims. This has gone from being a nuisance to a serious criminal act that is going on.”