It started when Kirsten Watson decided to sell her car. Turning to the internet and apps, she posted her car on multiple sites, one of them being “Let Go”.
Multiple people responded to her ad. One of them was a man whose’ profile identified him as ‘Austin Thacker’.
On the app users can be verified using social media and other sites like Facebook and Google. Watson decided to meet him in person because he was one such user, meeting him at the Grandy’s off Beckham Avenue in Tyler.
She said he looked at the engine, checked fluid levels, all things someone interested would look for. Then he wanted to test drive the car.
They agreed he would drive down the street, turn around, and come back, all within Watson’s line of sight. Instead, she watched him drive off with her car.
Watson got back on the app to message him, asking what was going on when she realized he blocked her. Then she called 911.
Speaking with CBS 19 she describes the incident and pulls up the profile. That’s when she realizes there are Instagram handles on the profile picture. Going to Instagram she finds the user and the profile picture, but looking more closely she realizes the picture isn’t of the guy she met earlier.
There’s also a link on the profile. It lead her to YouTube. The photo used in the fake ‘Let Go’ profile was from a popular YouTube channel, and the name being used had dozens of hits on Facebook.
Tyler PD says in situations like these one of the easiest ways to verify it’s a safe transaction is to ask for identification, once you see it, take a picture of it. If the person is not willing to show I.D. then it’s probably not a sale you want to go through with.
In Smith County there are also ‘Safe Deal Zones’. These are lighted areas with cameras in place. They are also manned by law enforcement personnel.
- Smith County Emergency Operations Center: 11325 Spur 248, Tyler
- Smith County Precinct 2 Constable's Office: 15405 Highway 155 S, Tyler
- Smith County Precinct 5 Constable's Office: 2616 S. Main St., Lindale
- Gladewater Police Department: 511 S Tyler St., Gladewater
Other locations can be found here.
The Smith County Sheriff’s Office says if you can’t meet at one of the safe zones then to meet in broad daylight, in an area full of people, like the mall. That way if anything does happen, there are many people around as witnesses.
Other tips to stay safe:
- Don't go alone
- Don't give out your address
- Use cash or a check
- Ask for I.D.
- Meet in a public area
Anyone with information on this case is asked to call the Tyler Police Department.