Local News

Majority of Washington residents targets of scam attacks

SPOKANE, Wash. - A recent AARP study reveals 8 in 10 Washington residents have been the target of a scam in the last year.

That same study suggests most people in the state aren't as prepared as they think they are when it comes to spotting scams. That's dangerous because imposter scams are reaching what AARP calls epidemic proportions across the country. According to AARP Washington, imposter scams are when scammers pose as someone they're not, like the IRS, a computer support technician, or a family member, so they can steal your money.

"We receive tens of thousands of consumer complaints every single year. Many of those are related to imposter scams or other types of frauds that are similar to that. So it's a huge, huge problem in our state," said Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, imposter scams have grown by nearly 500% in the last four years.  Attorney General Ferguson said the Consumer Protection Division is doing its part to address the issue, but it's important that everyone gets involved. Too often though, consumers don't know how to protect themselves.

When asked by AARP Washington, many people  were confident they could spot and stop a scam.

"But then, when you give them a quiz and ask them what they know about these tech support scams, they sort of flunk the quiz," said State Director of AARP Washington Doug Shadel.

That's part of why AARP is traveling the state, along with Attorney General Ferguson, with a new focus on "Unmasking the Imposters," It's a new campaign that shows behind the scenes of scamming enterprises. Two featured stories include a former scammer who pretended to be with the IRS but was really a young man in India.

Shadel said people pretending to be with tech support or pretending to be with the IRS are two of the most common scams.

AARP has a lot of resources that highlight warning signs of a scam. Three red flags include being contacted out of the blue with an offer of free money. Consumers should also be suspicious if someone you don't know is pressuring you to act quickly to take advantage of the offer or is threatening you.

Attorney General Ferguson also offered this advice.

"If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Do your homework before you turn over your hard earned money," Ferguson said.

You can call 1-800-551-4636 to report a scam or visit www.Atg.Wa.Gov. AARP also offers information on their website and take the Imposter IQ quiz here.