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Tips on avoiding scam callers who use fear tactics

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Scammers now use fear to scare people into revealing private information and money.

Scammers are getting smart with their calls. Now they're using a new tactic to trick people into giving personal information—fear. According to a recent AARP study, scammers use fear to scare people into revealing private information and money.

The study showed that people are more responsive to fear-based appeals than wealth-based appeals. Some of these fear-based calls will say:

  • You owe the IRS money
  • Someone stole your social security card
  • You missed jury duty and now owe money


Another AARP study showed that people are more likely to fall victim to scam calls later in the week. Mondays are the hardest to trick people because they're fresh off the weekend and prepared to tackle a new week. On the other hand, scammers succeeded in getting personal information on Tuesdays and Fridays because their mindset changes throughout the week. Calls after 5 p.m. showed to be sensitive times for people as well. If the caller is a female, victims are more suspectable to giving in, possibly because they expect a male.

The number in scam calls has drastically increased from 3,200 in 2017 to 35, 000 in 2018, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA recently reported that these calls are scammers pretending to be SSA employees threatening to have people arrested or suspend their social security cards if they don't place money on a gift card, give the caller the gift card number, or return the phone call. Scammers are known to use fake numbers too, leading a person to think the call is from a trusted source.

It's essential to remember that any valid caller would never threaten a person to hand over their personal information or money. So, while it's impossible to stop scam callers completely, you can reduce the headache and fear they bring by not answering numbers you don't recognize. You can also check with your service provider, as some do offer caller ID apps that catch scam calls. There are also tons of apps on the Apple store and Google Playstore that can help block unwanted scam and robocalls.

You can sign up for Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or by calling 800-646-2283. By joining the Fraud Watch Network, you'll receive alerts and notifications about new scams as they emerge.

File a consumer complaint with the Attorney General's Office at www.atg.wa.gov.

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