The phone rings, and the person on the line claims to be calling from a trustworthy tech company like Microsoft or Apple. There’s a problem with your computer, he says–perhaps it’s infected

“There’s just an endless amount of fear appeals,” he says. “They realize that fear sells better than good news.”

Older consumers may also be more likely to be used to using the phone to conduct business and simply more likely to pick up when they get unexpected calls, says Jim Tyrell, senior director of product marketing at Transaction Network Services, which analyzes call data for phone companies. “If you kind of look at the demographic of who uses voice mostly, clearly it’s not gen-X, gen-Y, and gen-Z,” he says.

Money’s not the only thing at stake, either: Increasingly, scammers are also asking for passwords and installing spyware, taking control of victims’ computers and giving them access to sensitive personal and banking information.

Corporate partnerships and a bill in Congress

AARP has worked with Microsoft and other organizations in recent years to educate consumers about the risks of automated scams, from robocalls to phishing attacks. Microsoft, which receives about 12,000 scam complaints a month through its own reporting site, has also worked to support law enforcement in shutting down scam-related operations around the world.

In March, Attorney General William Barr announced what the Justice Department called the “largest-ever nationwide elder fraud sweep,” which included arresting suspects accused in tech support and other scams, many of them targeting the elderly. The department said the illegal operations, involving more than 260 defendants in the United States and around the world, stole three-quarters of a billion dollars from victims. “We have to prosecute an all-out attack on these despicable crimes,” Barr said.

Microsoft also supported law enforcement in raids on about 30 call centers in India, where tech support scammers frequently set up shop, says Gregoire. “These tech support scams are truly a global problem, and Microsoft has been really committed to addressing them, because at the end of the day, they really do risk having consumers lose confidence in technology,” she says.