SEATTLE — Phone scams by people who are pretending to be someone they aren’t, known as “impostor scams,” have increased by 500% in the past five years. These scammers often pretend they are from the Internal Revenue Service, a bank or from companies handing out prizes.
The AARP launched a statewide effort to help people better protect themselves from these kind of scams. They say seniors are often targeted and they tend to fall for prize scams or investment scams whereas millennials tend to fall for technology scams, especially affecting computers and other devices.
“What we see on the increase is impostor fraud, which is pretending to be someone you’re not, to swindle someone,” said Doug Schadel, the Washington state AARP director. “What these con artists are doing is using fear and anxiety … to get people to react to their pitches without thinking,” added Schadel.
One of them men behind a large IRS impostor scam targeting Americans was a 19-year-old from Mumbai, India. Jayesh Dubey, says he was making more than 50,000 phone calls a day targeting Americans.
"We are in a fluke, we say anything just to scare them, just to let them know that this is an official IRS you’re talking to and you have to pay the official amount that is left, that you owe to the IRS," said Dubey.
Dubey says he was telling people the orders are coming from the Attorney General's Office. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson says never believe that.
"They have some of your information and that helps them gain your trust and convince you that they are who they say they are," said Ferguson.
Experts say the best thing people can do to protect themselves is not get worked up when these types of calls come in. The scammers want their victims to get emotional, so they act on impulse.
Schadel says take 24 hours, hang up and do some research to make sure the person who is calling, especially if they are demanding payment, is legitimate. He also says ask them to send you all the information by mail; chances are if they are overseas, they won't be able to do that.
Ferguson adds that being skeptical is a good idea too. "Never ever give away that personal information over the internet," he said.
Dubey says he used extreme scare techniques, telling people they are going to jail, the police will arrive at their home -- all to tap into their emotional state to get money transferred.
"We can’t send the police to anybody's place because we don’t know any police there, we don’t know anyone in America, we are here in India," said Dubey.