NBC5 News investigation: Behind the scams

Medford, Ore. — For scammers, conning you out of your money is a way of life. And as awareness spreads of their tactics, these criminals are only getting more ruthless, and their targets more vulnerable.

Getting into the mind of a scam artist is no easy feat, but it’s what Medford Police Sergeant Brent Mak does on a daily basis. He said, “There are people that do nothing all day long but sit around and try to scam them from their money.”

Scams are some of the hardest crimes to prosecute, but one of the easiest to prevent.

Sgt. Mak said, “The phone cases, the local cases, there is no local nexus, the victim lives locally, the suspect lives, often times, overseas.” And that’s why Sgt. Mak is reaching out to the scammer’s main targets – the elderly.

Sgt. Mak visits retirement communities to sharpen the best weapon police have against scammers who target the elderly — awareness. He said, “If we can hit them on the front end and warn them about these things before it happens we’re way ahead.”

Awareness could have prevented what happened to Central Point couple Gary and Judy Legler in 2014. Sgt. Mak said, “The seven checks with $11 million, put them on a page and sent them to me. They bounced like a basketball.”

The Leglers were duped into thinking they had won the lottery but needed to pay a deposit for their winnings. In the end they were out tens of thousands of dollars. And that’s just one example of the dozens of scams out there.

Another scam you may recognize are calls that inform you that a lawsuit has been filed against you by the IRS. If you go to the irs.gov web page, there’s a list of 5 things the IRS won’t do. Number one says that the IRS won’t call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.

But awareness only works when potential victims are informed, so Sgt. Mak is asking everyone to get involved in protecting the elderly. He said, “One of the simplest things is tell them if they do not recognize the number, do not pick up the phone, let the machine get it. If you don’t know who they are, don’t talk to them.”

According to the National Council on Aging, elder financial abuse and scams aimed at the elderly costs older Americans $2.9 billion a year.

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