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Kingsport police issue scam warning after victim defrauded of $12,000

STAFF • Jun 17, 2020 at 2:00 PM

KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Police Department is once again stressing the importance of extreme vigilance against financial scams.

One particular type of scam that continues to circulate, according to the KPD, involves a scammer pretending to be a law enforcement official and alleging that the intended victim has an outstanding arrest warrant that can only be satisfied by paying a substantial fine and/or court costs.

The scammer will almost never accept traditional forms of payment such as cash, check, or credit card but rather demand that the victim obtain prepaid money cards (Green Dot, My Vanilla, etc.) from a local store, often draining the victim’s life savings in the process.

The scammer will then require the victim to disclose the account numbers of the prepaid cards over the phone, so that the fraudulently obtained electronic funds can be accessed remotely.

Such was the case with a local woman who was recently contacted by a scammer at her place of employment in Kingsport. The scammer established credibility by providing names of actual law enforcement officers that could easily be obtained on the internet. The end result was that the woman turned over $12,000 to the scammers.

She became suspicious shortly thereafter and promptly reported the incident to the KPD.

“Detectives have already been able to intercept a significant portion of the fraudulently obtained electronic funds and return them to the rightful owner and are still attempting to reclaim the remaining balance,” the KPD said in a news release Tuesday. “Unfortunately, however, this is often not possible and the money can be lost forever.”

The identity of the suspect or suspects who initiated this particular scam remains a mystery.

“These scammers are almost never local and are often located out of state or even in a foreign country,” the KPD said. “They cover their trail extremely well by using disposable ‘burner’ phones with cloned telephone numbers, making tracing their origin difficult or next to impossible.”

The KPD continues to stress that legitimate law enforcement officials would never operate this way.

“We would never extort payment to satisfy an outstanding arrest warrant. Moreover, no legitimate entity would ever demand payment in the form of a prepaid money card and refuse all other traditional forms of payment. While these scammers can be very convincing, citizens need to be alert to their existence,” the KPD said in the release.

Anyone who receives this type of call should hang up and report the matter to law enforcement. If there is ever any question regarding the legitimacy of this type of call, people should always consult an actual law enforcement officer and/or a trusted financial advisor prior to turning over any funds or personal information.

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