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Beware of scammers scare tactics

Gresham police are warning residents against falling victim to a phone scam in which the caller claims to be owed money for a loan and threatens have the victim arrested.

It's the second such theft-by-extortion case to be reported to Gresham police since August, said Sgt. Claudio Grandjean, Gresham police spokesman.

This summer, a 24-year-old Gresham woman got a call from a man who threatened to have her arrested and her children taken away if she didn't pay him $600 for a payday loan and another $5,400 in late payments.

She didn't pay him a dime and reported the incident to Gresham police.

But earlier this month, a 47-year-old Gresham woman fell prey to a similar scam and forked over $7,200 when he threatened to have her arrested.

The victim told Gresham police that the man called her at home, identified himself as Ronnie Cooper and claimed to be an attorney for Cash Advance America. The man said she owed money on a loan and if she didn't pay him $1,200 plus attorney fees, he'd have her arrested at work.

The woman, who is a teacher at Centennial High School, did recall having a loan with Cash Advance and was afraid of being arrested at work, so she asked what she needed to do in order to clear up the debt.

She followed his instructions to get cash from her bank, use it to buy cash cards at Walmart and to call him back with the card numbers. He also had her fax him the information on the cards for what he called 'legal documentation,' as well as a copy of her driver's license.

Later that day he called back saying he needed another $6,000 to take care of the other loans she had with the company. The victim did have other loans, so she got the money from her parents and went through the same routine to pay him.

In the evening, the suspect called yet again. This time he told her she should also take care of her credit card debt or face the same consequences.

After borrowing money from her aunt, she got the cash cards and was about to fax over the information when her parents called. They'd contacted her husband who said she needed to stop because it was a scam.

Grandjean said these scam artists are very aggressive and intimidating. 'But whenever you owe anybody money, that's civil, not criminal,' he said. 'You can't be arrested unless under a judge's order and that's very rare.'

Instead, debtors would be called into civil court where such cases are handled, usually by garnishing wages.

But being arrested? 'That doesn't happen.'

He cautioned residents to be careful when conducting personal business. The victim in this summer's case never took out a payday loan, but the suspect may have gotten her personal information when she received a car title loan though a local company.

Scammers also mine the Internet for personal information to use for their new twists on old schemes, Grandjean said.

Anyone with information on the case, or similar extortion cases, is asked to call the Gresham police tipline at 503-618-2719.