By Marc Kovac
Scam artists who prey on unsuspecting grandparents would face increased criminal penalties under legislation OK’d by the Ohio Senate.
Senate Bill 223, approved Wednesday, is aimed at crooks who use the Internet or other electronic means to fool residents into paying for products or services they will never receive or wiring money to faux family members in far-off locales.
“Everyday, telecommunication and cyber fraud is being committed,” said Sen. Kevin Bacon, a Republican from the Columbus area and primary sponsor of the bill. “The people that we’re dealing with, these individuals are criminals. They will steal from you. They will steal from your family. They will steal from your parents. They will steal from your children.”
The legislation passed by a final vote of 31-0 and heads to the Ohio House for further consideration.
Senate Bill 223 would increase felony penalties against perpetrators of cyber fraud — taking money from victims through Internet auction sites, Facebook and other social media or other electronic means.
Criminal penalties would be even higher for anyone convicted of telecommunications fraud against someone 65 or older.
The legislation also would give the state attorney general’s office authority to investigate alleged incidents of telecommunications fraud and assist in local prosecutions.
The bill has the support of Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose office reported more than 7,300 complaints about cyber fraud totaling $10 million-plus last year.
“The large number of consumer complaints we receive in the attorney general’s office regarding cyber fraud enables us to detect patterns of criminal activity,” DeWine said in a released statement after the Senate vote. “This legislation gives us the tools to investigate cyber-fraud cases and help bring these scammers to justice.”