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Familiar scam involves fake cops, bogus phone numbers

A longtime Jackson County scam involving bogus phone numbers, fake police and very real thefts of thousands of dollars is rearing its head again.

Over the last two weeks, multiple Jackson County residents have reported being called by an individual alleging to be from either the Jackson County Sheriff's Department or Medford police. Phone call recipients are threatened with an arrest warrant, and the scammers say the only way to make the warrants go away is for victims to purchase pre-paid debit cards, activate them and provide the card numbers over the phone.

"It's been going on for quite some time now," said sheriff's Sgt. Julie Denney. "It just tends to spike at certain times. I think around the holidays we tend to see a spike in scams, in general."

To add legitimacy, the callers utilize a "spoof" phone number, which makes it appear as though the call is coming from the main sheriff's department or Medford police line. In a case from 2012, the thieves went as far as utilizing a real detective's name. In a case from 2014, the scammers posed as Internal Revenue Service agents.

The scammers tend to target the elderly, using information they have gleaned from the internet, including addresses, phone numbers and names of relatives. Some victims have lost thousands of dollars after being called.

Police say such calls should be huge red flags, because officers do not deliver warrants by phone.

"Our recommendation is absolutely to know that local law enforcement would never conduct business this way, and to just disconnect," said Medford police Lt. Justin Ivens.

Police said it's difficult to follow up and investigate these types of crimes.

"Most of these scammers aren’t local. They’re not even in this country sometimes," Denney said. "That’s why we’re hitting on the prevention side of it."

Anyone with questions is asked to contact their local police department.

— Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.