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Online dating scam costs Kingsport woman nearly $3,000

Matthew Lane • Nov 17, 2019 at 6:00 PM

KINGSPORT — Talk about a bad first date.

A Kingsport woman sent nearly $3,000 to a man she met online to help him with moving expenses from Iraq to the United States. Soon after, the man cut off all contact with the woman, and in all likelihood the entire ordeal was simply a scam, the Kingsport Police Department reports.

It’s something that happens much too often, especially with the older adults in our country.

According to a police report, in September an elderly Kingsport woman met a man at the online dating site Plenty of Fish. The man’s name was allegedly Michael Alfredo Garcia, and he professed to be an orthopedic surgeon contracted with the U.S. Army to operate on soldiers stationed in Baghdad.

Michael told the woman he was retiring and needed some money to have his personal belongings shipped from Iraq to her apartment. The report states the woman sent several cashier’s checks — totaling $2,950 — to a third man, who was going to arrange the shipment through a company called Skyline Courier Service.

The woman told Kingsport police last week that Michael’s property never arrived at her apartment and that she was unable to reach him. An officer told her that she was probably the victim of a scam.

“As law-abiding citizens, we need to be smarter and not be so susceptible to these types of crimes,” said Tom Patton, public information officer for the Kingsport Police Department. “When in doubt, remember the age-old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

HOW NOT TO BE SCAMMED

1) Spot imposters. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request.

2) Do online searches. Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.”

3) Don’t believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real.

4) Don’t pay upfront for a promise. If you do, the person you paid will probably take the money and disappear.

5) Consider how you pay. Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but wiring funds is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back.

6) Talk to someone. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. Slow down, check out the story, or just tell a friend.

7) Hang up on robocalls. If you hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up. These calls are illegal and often the products are bogus.

8) Be skeptical of free trial offers. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy.

9) Don’t deposit a check and wire money back. If a check you deposit turns out to be fake, you’re responsible for repaying the bank.

10) Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC. Visit ftc.gov/scams for more information.

Source: Federal Trade Commission — Consumer Information Page

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