Indiana provided the example of state-level enforcement efforts for a recent news conference announcing a national robocalling sweep organized by the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC and law enforcement partners announced 94 actions targeting alleged robocalling schemes nationwide as part of their “Operation Call it Quits” sweep, saying the country lost $10.5 billion to phone scams last year.

That impact included more than $16 million lost to the scams by Indiana residents, according to its Attorney General Curtis Hill.

His office estimated the amount lost in the state probably is much higher than that because many of its elderly feel too intimidated or embarrassed to report their losses, or they don’t know they’ve been scammed.

“Every year, our office gets more consumer complaints about unwanted robocalls than just about any other issue,” Hill said in a statement.

“At best, these calls represent a nuisance for families just wanting to enjoy peace and privacy without needless disturbances interrupting their routines. At worst, they represent scams that successfully steal people’s identities or hard-earned money,” he said.

“In Indiana, we are quite serious about stopping illegal robocalls, and our alliances with such partners as the FTC are valuable assets in this mission.”

At the Chicago news conference, Hill discussed a civil complaint his office recently filed against Anthony and Michael Valenti, who were doing business as Maryland-based American Health Services.

He said his office received dozens of complaints from Indiana consumers who reported they had received robocalls from Maryland-based phone numbers pitching insurance products.

All the American Health Services calls started with prerecorded messages rather than a live speaker and all but one of the consumers complaining about the calls had phone numbers registered with the Indiana Do Not Call List, Hill said.

American Health was not registered with the Indiana Secretary of State to do business in Indiana and the Valentis did not have valid Indiana insurance licenses, he said.

The civil complaint against them alleges the Valentis and their company violated three Indiana statutes and could face up to $1.17 million in civil penalties as a result, in additions to fees and court costs.

“These are the kinds of actions we must continue to take against violators of laws intended to protect consumers,” Hill said. “We will never stem the tide of illegal robocalling until we prove we have the resolve and wherewithal to make offenders pay.”

Hill was the only state attorney general attending the national news conference announcing the robocalling sweep.

Wireless Zone giving away backpacks with supplies

The Fort Wayne Wireless Zone in partnership with The Cellular Connection and Culture of Good will work to alleviate the rising costs of school supplies with a School Rocks Backpack Giveaway later this month.

The event has been scheduled for 1-4 p.m. July 21 at Wireless Zone’s 9924 Illinois Road location in Fort Wayne.

More than 1,300 Wireless Zone and TCC stores across the country are inviting families with children in school to pick up backpacks they are donating that day filled with school supplies from pencils, rulers and glue to paper, folders and pencil boxes.

The National Retail Federation projects parents will spend $112 on school supplies this year as well as $685 on clothes, accessories and electronics.

The Wireless Zone and TCC expect to help alleviate those costs by providing more than 235,000 backpacks during the giveaway.

Indiana Tech to offer online program

Indiana Tech plans to offer the region’s first fully online electrical engineering technology program leading to an associate of science degree.

The program is designed to prepare students for a wide range of technical careers and provide employers in engineering, electrical, advanced manufacturing and computer systems industries with exceptionally qualified employees, according to a statement explaining it.

Lab work for the program can be done at home using sophisticated electronics lab kits or via optional in-person immersion events on the school’s Fort Wayne campus.

“Indiana Tech’s new electrical engineering technology program is uniquely designed to prepare students to be highly successful in technical careers,” Tom Kaplan, Indiana Tech’s Academic Affairs vice president, said in the statement.

“Our students will not only gain essential knowledge and skills in electrical engineering and technology, they will also learn to be effective communicators, collaborators and project leaders,” he said.

“Plus, by offering the program completely online, we will be able to serve many more students. Employers around Indiana and the Midwest have shared with us that they have great need for team members equipped with the skills and knowledge this program will provide.”

Areas of focus with the program will include electronic instrumentation, electrical machines, analog and digital circuitry and microprocessors.

The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows technicians with electrical engineering technology associates degrees earn close to $64,000 annually, on average.

For more information on the program go to https://academics.indianatech.edu/programs/electrical-engineering-tech/ or call 1-800-288-1766.

Trine engineers place 2nd in challenge

A civil engineers team from Trine University placed second in a global contest to design a sustainable shelter for dogs that would work well during a natural disaster or other type of emergency.

The American Society of Civil Engineers hosted its “Sustainable Solutions Competition: Dog House Challenge” early last month at the Florida Institute of Technology.

The Trine team reached the international level of the competition by taking first place in its Great Lakes Regional level in April at Valparaiso University. The four-member team included Scott Beckmann of Auburn.

The teams built full size versions of their shelters, which were evaluated on aesthetics, cost, sustainability and ease of assembly. The Trine team received the highest construction score and won a $1,000 prize.

“Overall, it was a great showing for Trine,” T.J. Murphy, instructor in the Reiners Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said in a statement. “A lot of judges were very complimentary and encouraging of our students.”

The competition was one by a team from Hohai University in China.

Veteran reporter Doug LeDuc joined Business Weekly in 2006 and primarily covers banking and finance and technology. You can send information for his weekly column to dleduc@kpcmedia.com or call 260-426-2640, ext. 3309.

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