Indiana Attorney General’s Office cracking down on political robocalls

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The Attorney General's Office is cracking down on political robocalls before the election, as thousands of Hoosiers have already filed complaints for automated messages this year.

According to statistics provided by the Indiana Attorney General's Office, they've investigated more than 9,000 complaints so far in 2016 for robocalls. Those numbers are not broken down into specific types of calls. Indiana has some of the strictest laws when it comes to robocalls.

"We have a strict prohibition against that and we will bring actions against any candidate, any company that breaks that statute," explained Indiana's Attorney General, Greg Zoeller.

Illegal robocalls are classified specifically as calls that come from an auto-dialing computer. That means, a vendor automatically dials thousands of numbers at once to place phone calls or voice mails. Those kinds of calls and messages are illegal.

"It’s not technically illegal to leave a recorded message, it’s the means by which it’s delivered," said Zoeller.

Messages sent individually from political candidates or campaign offices are still legal. The only way to tell the difference is if an investigation is done.

"We can get phone records to know whether there is an auto-dialer call or what’s called a predicted dialer, someone at a campaign office pressing one button and getting one phone to ring," Zoeller said.

If you're receiving these calls, there's likely no way for you to know if you've been a victim of a robocall or if you've been selected by a predicted dialer. Either way, Zoeller encourages you to report unwanted phone calls and messages. That way, an investigation can be done into how the call was placed.

"If we see a lot of complaints all at once, we’ll be investigating to see whether it’s an auto-dialer or so called robocall," said Zoeller.

During election season, Zoeller said he takes complaints very seriously. His office previously investigated claims from Hoosiers after a local politician sent out thousands of recorded messages to residents. The attorney general's office found the candidate hired an outside vendor that did not understand Indiana law. That vendor sent out robocalls instead of dialing each number individually. Zoeller said his office was required to bring forward an investigation into both the vendor and candidate, even though the candidate did not know how the vendor was placing calls.

"I’ve been calling some of the party chairmen’s to remind them of this. Making sure they know their vendors," Zoeller said.

According to another part of the law, it is illegal for political messages to be left, if the person receiving them does not agree to the messages. For example, if your phone voicemail states "leave a message," state law interprets that as giving permission for a recorded advertisement to be left. If you do not wish to have voicemails like these, Zoeller recommends for you to record a message specifically stating you do not want messages left.

If you're receiving calls without giving permission, you can file a complaint online here.

You can also call the Attorney General's Office at 1-888-834-9969.

For more on Indiana's robocall laws, click here.

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