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More Than a Nuisance: WA Groups Launch Campaign Against Robocalls

Neighbor spoofing is a tactic used by robocallers that makes it seem as if the call is coming from a number with a local area code. (massimo vernicesole/Adobe Stock)
Neighbor spoofing is a tactic used by robocallers that makes it seem as if the call is coming from a number with a local area code. (massimo vernicesole/Adobe Stock)
May 22, 2019

SEATTLE – Robocalls to Washingtonians are picking up, and AARP Washington has launched a new campaign urging people not to fall for their scams.

Washingtonians received nearly 560 million automated calls last year.

Doug Shadel, state director of AARP Washington, says harassing and threatening calls from people who say they're with such agencies as the Social Security Administration or Internal Revenue Service actually are the most successful scams, according to a survey being released today.

"Some of them are positive messages like, 'You've won money,' and some of them are these fear-based tactics," says Shadel. "And what we found is that significantly more people respond to the fear tactics than to the promises of wealth. And so, that's really disturbing."

AARP Washington released Who's Really on the Line? today.

The organization, along with the Washington State Attorney General's Office, Microsoft, the Federal Trade Commission and the credit union BECU, are launching a campaign today in Seattle called "Spoof Proof Your Life," heading to cities across the state to help people spot and stop the latest scam tactics.

Shadel describes another tactic scammers use to get Washingtonians on the line, known as "neighbor spoofing," where calls come from a local area code.

According to the group's survey, three in five Washingtonians say they are more likely to pick up calls from a local area code, and nearly half are willing to pick up calls from an area code where family or friends live.

Shadel says this is undermining caller ID: "Caller ID is no longer a reliable way to determine who's on the phone because it's so easy to spoof the number, to just make up a number to make it look like it's local, when it's not."

Along with no longer relying on caller ID, AARP Washington also suggests folks use call-blocking services like Nomorobo or You Mail, independently verify the identity of the person calling, and report fraud to law agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission or state attorney general's office.

Disclosure: AARP Washington contributes to our fund for reporting on Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA