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MADISON, Wis. -- Every year, millions of Americans and tens of thousands of Wisconsinites are victims of consumer fraud.
In 2016 alone, 32,000 Wisconsinites reported these types of scams. According to Jeannie Tucker, senior program specialist at AARP Wisconsin, nearly 20 percent of all consumer fraud complaints last year were related to debt collection. Scammers posed as debt collectors, asking for payments and demanding personal information from victims. "And oftentimes, threats or intimidation are used to scare people into believing they need to give out information right away, or they're going to face some sort of penalty," Tucker said. "If you get one of these 'must pay now' requests, never share your personal information over the phone or by email."
Tucker said the scammers' calls can be very convincing, but you should hang up. If you have some lingering concern about whether you actually owe something, she said, call the company directly and ask questions. AARP is setting up teams of volunteers across the state to give presentations in their local communities on how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.
Tucker added seniors are particularly at risk. "Older adults are seen as folks who have a nest egg; that are seen as having a pot of money to go after," she said. "So yes, con artists, unfortunately, do target older adults often." Tucker will spearhead the volunteer-led teams of fraud fighters, who will share tips for protecting personal information and avoiding scams. She said there's also a website for help and information. "Visit 'www.AARP.org/FraudWatchNetwork.' The website has interactive components where you can report scams; you can search for the latest attempts that are happening in your area," she said. "And there's information for where to go to get help." Tucker said the best way to battle the bad guys is to do everything possible to stay one step ahead of them.