NewsLocal News


Bill aims to warn Marylanders about scams; $165M reported stolen last year

phone scam.png
Posted at 10:51 AM, Mar 07, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-07 10:51:18-05

BALTIMORE — Each year, Marylanders are losing massive amounts of money to scams. In just the last 5 years, reported losses have increased over 300 percent from $37 million a year to more than $164 million, according to data from the Federal Trade Commission.

SB834 in the General Assembly wants to better warn Maryland consumers about these scams. On Wednesday, there was a hearing on the Don't Scam Maryland Act of 2024.

If passed, it would establish the Scam Awareness Pilot Program in the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division.

The bill has three goals: to identify the most common types of scams, develop safety messages that will help consumers recognize these scams and avoid them, and to send out these safety messages using different forms of communication.

“If we can get that messaging out there and people go, okay, you're from my bank, I'll call you right back. And usually the scammer will go no, no, no, you can't call me right back. That's another red flag that this is a scam. If we can start setting off red flags in people's minds, maybe we can enable them to just hang up the phone and just walk away and then call their bank to make sure everything's okay,” said Joe Carrigan, a senior security engineer with the Johns Hopkins Universit Information Security Institute.

Carrigan testified in favor of the bill. During his testimony, he referred legislators to WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii’s report on a recent scam that cost 7 Marylanders $3.8 million, or on average $500,000 per victim.

READ MORE: Elaborate scam involves gold bars and couriers; cost a Maryland woman $2 million

“I think it's important that we make an effort to educate people publicly. There hasn't really been a concerted effort for this, and I hope that this bill will help with that,” Carrigan added.

“While internet crime victims have not massively increased over past years, the amount of money they've been swindled has. This suggests that the fraudsters are working smarter not harder, and selecting their victims more carefully and stealing about twice as much with each successful attempt,” said Senator Katie Fry Hester, the bill's sponsor.

The bill is estimated to cost around $1 million to help cover costs associated with advertising and outreach efforts.

The Senate Finance Committee will now decide if the bill gets a favorable or unfavorable report.