OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office has seen a rise in seniors in our community getting scammed. Currently, online romance scams are the biggest issue they’re seeing throughout the county.
The Sheriff’s Office told KFOR it’s because many seniors were forced to go online, use apps and communicate through social media because of the pandemic.
“COVID, unfortunately, provided the absolute catalyst to bring a lot of things together. So, senior crime has increased tremendously over the last two years… The criminals used that to their advantage and began to take more and more advantage, gaining access to their accounts, gaining access through their e-mails, and getting them just to click on bad text messages, on bad emails, and having contact with them in ways that they hadn’t previously,” said Tara Hardin, Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office.
Hardin said more than $1 billion was lost last year due to online romance scams. That was the largest dollar value loss for seniors in 2021.
“The FBI actually classifies romance scams and confidence scams into one scam because they use the same emotional and mental techniques in a romance scam that they do on confidence scams,” said Hardin.
Hardin said in the area and even nationwide, scammers are making a huge come back.
“That may be anything from calling and spoofing a number looking like it’s coming from the sheriff’s office and saying, ‘hey, this is Deputy Tara Harding from the sheriff’s office and you have a warrant and we need you to get this taken care of,’ when actually all they’ve done is spoof the number to build that confidence,” said Hardin.
According to the FBI, “seniors are often targeted because they tend to be trusting and polite. They also usually have financial savings, own a home, and have good credit—all of which make them attractive to scammers.”
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Crime targeting seniors is increasing tremendously throughout the metro. The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office is going above and beyond to make sure seniors are safe.
The Sheriff’s Office hosts the SALT program. It stands for Seniors and law Enforcement together.
At each meeting they communicate with seniors about crime prevention methods and right now it’s more important than ever because The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office is seeing more and more seniors being affected.
Tara Hardin, with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, has taught hundreds of senior’s ways to avoid being the target of a scam, once a month at 19 different locations throughout the county.
“We do everything from online safety to skimmers and protecting your debit cards to parking lot safety, person wallet safety. So physical safety, we even talk about storm preparedness and the scams that oftentimes follow natural disaster,” said Hardin.
Hardin said she has gotten positive feedback from seniors involved. A lot of them say it’s been helpful.
“I even got an email from one of my participants this week saying, ‘Hey, I got a phone call. She left a message and gave me a number, but she’s called twice and the company name she’s calling from is not clear.’ So, I reminded her of the tips that we’ve talked about reverse phone number lookup. We were able to work through the issue together and find out that it’s a fraudulent number call also,” said Hardin.
“The numbers are growing post COVID and coming out of lockdown and the councils. Each one of the meetings has been slowly getting back to normal and growing,” said Hardin.
If you’re a senior or you know of a senior who would benefit from this kind of program, call (405)869-2555 to find a meeting in your area. You can also find more information about it on the Sheriff’s Office Website or Facebook page.