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Woman lost at least $10,000 to fake soldier

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A 39-year-old Olmsted County woman is out at least $10,000 after sending gift cards to a man she thought was an active-duty soldier.

An Olmsted County Sheriff's deputy responded to a call from her at 3:24 p.m. Sunday, according to Capt. Scott Behrns of the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office.

The unnamed woman said she started communicating with the man in March via social media applications, with the belief that he was in the U.S. Army. Over time, she started sending him Visa gift cards and cards for online video games.

Behrns said the deputy asked the woman to call the "soldier," who reportedly answered with a thick foreign accent.

"She's pretty much out this money," he said, noting the odds of finding the scammer are small.

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"We may look into it, but it's not going to be a top priority on our list with all the other stuff we have going on," he added.

Local law enforcement officers routinely field calls from victims of various online and phone scams, but technology makes tracking down suspects difficult. As a result, they encourage using caution when talking to new people. 

"You have to be careful who you’re talking to on these (social media) apps," Behrns said. "It's going to just cost money." 

The Federal Trade Commission reports that the three top identities scammers use online are soldiers, oil rig workers and doctors with an international organization. 

They all offer excuses for being unable to make contact outside specific social media services, which can often be used to enhance the con. 

Last year, the median loss reported to such scams was $2,600, combining for a total of $143 million in reported loses. 

To help avoid being part of the next report, the FTC offers several suggestions:

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• Never send money or gifts to someone you haven’t met in person.

• If you suspect you are communicating with a scammer, do a search for the type of job the person has to see if other people have heard similar stories. 

• Do a reverse image search of the person’ profile picture to see if it’s connected to another name.

• Report any scams to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Notify the website or app where you met the scammer, too.

• If you sent a scammer with a gift card, contact the company that issued it right away. The company may be able to cancel it and refund your money.

Related Topics: OLMSTED COUNTYPOLICE
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