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Sheriff hoping to broaden reach of scam prevention

It's almost a mainstay in news: Scam alert. Don't get taken.

It's rarely an issue to get the word out thanks to digital media, but it can still be difficult to get the messages to some senior citizens, who aren't online as frequently, police say.

"I think these days we're just a little more dependent on technology for communication, and that's leaving a lot of people out," said Sgt. Julie Denney with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department. "Seniors aren't using social media and the Internet as much as other groups."

This week, sheriff's deputies have broadened their outreach, opting for a more old-school approach of paper flyers and brochures they plan to hand out at sites around Jackson County where seniors congregate. The literature includes information on common phone and Internet scams — including ploys where scammers will pose as police, court officials and IRS agents — how to recognize fraud, and steps to take if a scammer makes contact.

"Just by going out and talking to different organizations, we're finding out that people have been talking about this for a while, but they didn't know a lot about it," Denney said.

Deputies have reached out to the Department of Human Services Senior Services Division for help in getting the word out and provided brochures to the Food & Friends organization, which delivers meals to senior citizens daily.

Anyone who doesn't know how to spot a scam can be cheated out of thousands in a single phone call. In a recent case, a local man lost $1,500 to a scammer posing as a police officer. That scammer told the man he had a warrant for his arrest, as he'd missed jury duty. Afraid he would go to jail, the man paid up.

The issue is widespread. Identity thieves and fraudsters bilked U.S. consumers out of more than $16 billion in 2016, according to a CNBC report.

The sheriff's department may deliver more informational materials in the future, and has already received interest from other public agencies that want to implement similar programs.

"They can use it however they need to," she said. "The important thing is to reach people."

Anyone interested in the materials can call Denney at 541-770-8927.

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