Man poses as high school coach to sell phony gift cards

Man poses as high school coach to sell phony gift cards

Posted:
"He said he was affiliated with the New York Yankees with doing it and was a coach at Central High School," said scam victim Erin Barnes. "He said he was affiliated with the New York Yankees with doing it and was a coach at Central High School," said scam victim Erin Barnes.
The man came into Barnes' workplace at Market Square saying he was raising money to build a local ball park for the kids. The man came into Barnes' workplace at Market Square saying he was raising money to build a local ball park for the kids.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A Knoxville woman says her daughter and other teens were scammed by a man posing as a high school coach.

She says the man claimed he was working to help kids build a new ballpark, but later found out the story didn't check out.

Now the mom and her daughter want to get the word out and prevent others from falling prey.

One of those scammed is 17-year-old Erin Barnes. She bought a gift card hoping to buy Christmas gifts for her family and help the community.

Barnes says she thought she would never be scammed. Then Sunday night a man came into her work at Market Square saying he was raising money to build a local ball park for the kids.

"He said he was affiliated with the New York Yankees, with doing it, and was a coach at Central High School," said Barnes.

Barnes says the man, who called himself Coach Smith, looked official. He showed papers on what appeared to be state letterhead and wore a shirt embroidered with the title Coach Smith.

"I thought I was really good at being able to tell when I'm being joked or fooled with, but that guy was really good," said Barnes.

She says the man showed her and other coworkers several gift cards, claiming they were donated for the fundraiser. He was selling many at half price. Barnes paid $30 for a $50 value prepaid Visa card.

"One other of my coworkers is the one that bought the $100 Shell gift card and the manager, who is my brother, he gave him a $20 gift certificate to the restaurant," said Barnes.

A couple hours later she decided to check out the cards.

"When I called it said it was void and there was no cash value on any of the cards. It also had a website to check, so I went in there and typed in the card number and the security number and it said it might have been stolen," said Barnes.

She called police and made a report.

Central High School confirms there is not a Coach Smith on staff and the school is not having a gift card fundraiser to support a ballpark.

Barnes hopes no one else falls for the scam.

"If you see this guy it's phony, it's not real," said Barnes.

Barnes says other people were probably scammed Sunday night. She says she saw the man calling himself Coach Smith walking from business to business in Market Square. She hopes people check their gift cards so they don't give friends and family a canceled card.

If you are approached by someone claiming to be fundraising for a Knox County School, school officials say you should ask to see a fundraising letter from Knox County Schools, a letter of support from the board of education and an employee's school-issued ID badge.

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