OPINION: New SOS, PSC Law Limiting Scam Callers Protects Mississippians

Tupelo, Miss. (Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal) – You will be hard pressed to find individuals who are not annoyed by the continual flow of phone calls from telemarketers. And as much of a harassment as it can be to receive calls soliciting sales of cruise lines, home security systems or time shares, it becomes much worse when the motivation of the caller is malevolent.

State officials are trying to provide more relief from telephone scammers with recent changes to the state’s Telephone Solicitation Act, as reported by the Daily Journal’s Taylor Vance.

During a joint press conference on Monday between Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, Southern District Public Service Commissioner Sam Britton and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, the officials announced changes that will remove existing exemptions for charities.

Currently, charitable organizations are required to register with the Secretary of State’s Office, but many are exempt from the solicitation requirements and are allowed to request donations by phone and by text. The problem is many dubious charities were taking advantage of this provision and were making a significant number of cold-calls, trying to scam people and steal money.

“When we looked into these complaints and began to work and investigate, what we found was there was a paid telemarketing firm almost consistently that was being paid to make these calls,” Presley said. “This (law) will enable us to work with the Secretary of State’s office and to put a stop to much of this activity which sometimes, quite frankly, can border on being criminal activity.”

Mississippians are known for their generosity, as the most charitable state in the nation. It is despicable that anyone would try to prey on that by soliciting funds for a false charitable organization. But such is the world we live in.

The new law was first introduced in the Mississippi Legislature by state Sen. Sally Doty, was signed by Gov. Phil Bryant and will go into effect on July 1. It will require organizations paying telephone solicitors to comply with the Telephone Solicitation Act. They will be required to register with the Public Service Commissioner’s office and purchase the state’s “no call” list.

Telemarketers and other individuals who violate the law will be fined $10,000 for each offense committed. Presley emphasized that legitimate charities that don’t hire outside firms to call donors will still be exempt from the law.

We believe the change is a good one that will shield Mississippians from calls that are annoying at best and malicious at worst. We also think that by making it more difficult for dubious charities to operate, the changes will screen out scammers, thus increasing the credibility of legitimate, respectable charities working hard to serve fellow Mississippians and make our state a better place to live. We salute the officials who worked to improve the law.

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