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Tigard Police Work with Seniors to Reduce Scams

For Tigard residents Jack and JJ, an investment opportunity appeared promising. It offered a generous rate of return and had the trappings of a legitimate business, including a sophisticated website, a call center and business leads.

If they invested in and sold credit card terminals, Jack and JJ would receive sales commissions and a percentage of transaction fees. Unfortunately they learned that this opportunity was a scam after it was too late to recover their $13,000 investment. More than a year later, Jack is still paying off the credit-card debt related to this scam by working long shifts, despite being in his 80s.Officer-Bowman-and-senior-couple

“Although scams can happen to anyone, seniors are frequently targeted,” says Officer Kary Bowman. Their desire for more financial freedom can make them vulnerable to scams, even ones that are clearly too good to be true. Additionally, “isolation, memory problems, frailty and fear related to a scammers’ use of intimidation and bullying tactics are contributing factors to rates of victimization.”

Scammers commonly use high-pressure tactics, including intimidation, to compel victims to act before they can vet these offers. In one case, Bowman worked with a 100-year-old man who paid thousands after a scammer who lived abroad reportedly threatened to kill his family. What’s more, scammers may share victims’ information with other offenders, leading to further victimization.

Busy Officers Have Less Time to Talk Prevention
Bowman says victims’ shame frequently hinders them from sharing their stories with peers, family or friends. Some senior victims may fear family members will question their ability to live independently after being scammed. However, sharing stories reveals scammers’ methods, which may help others avoid being lured by a similar scheme.

Bowman trains seniors as often as her schedule allows, sharing her own experience with a computer scam to start a dialogue.  

Bowman would like more time to assist seniors and vulnerable populations about scams, but police resources have been tight over the last few years. Her primary duties of responding to 9-1-1 and non-emergency calls demand most of her time, especially with a 16 percent increase in dispatched calls over the last five years. Bowman still wants residents to know they can call the police about potential scams.

After their experience, JJ distrusts all phone or mail offers. When a scammer recently began calling Jack and JJ, they reached out to Bowman, who had worked with them before. Bowman was gratified to help them and prevent another crime. She prefers this over taking a police report later—long after the money is gone.

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