Scams are a constant in this day and age, and while many are familiar with the IRS scam (the IRS will never call you, they only contact you by mail), another scam that originated on the east coast is making its way west.
By Melissa Anderson
The scam that many businesses in the area are becoming more and more aware of is the sports calendar scam perpetrated by a company calling themselves Sports Media. The company claims to be selling spots on a fall/spring sports calendar for the Langdon Area School District (LASD) or claims that your business has purchased a spot and now owes Sports Media a sum.
“This is a fairly common scam where entities take advantage of local business and sports teams,” Parrell Grossman, an Assistant Attorney General and Director of the Consumer Protection Division at the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office, said.
“It preys on the enthusiasm of local businesses who want to support their local teams and schools.”
Sports Media has been running this particular scam for several years, originating on the east coast where it was first reported on in late 2011. According to that report, attorney general’s offices in the states of Connecticut, Nevada, and New Mexico had received complaints about the company’s activities. The reason for so many states receiving complaints on the same company is that Sports Media changes its mailing address frequently to different states, making it harder for authorities to track down those responsible for the scam.
Chalmer Dettler, President of Farmers and Merchants Bank, shared his experience when dealing with a representative of the company claiming to be making sports calendars.
“They were very persistent in their pursuit of getting payment,” Dettler said.
Dettler also shared an invoice that was sent to F&M Bank recently claiming the financial institution owed $149 for an ad that was placed on a football sports calendar last fall. Dettler explained that no such authorization was given for an ad. The invoices that F&M Bank have received also show the return address for the company changes from state to state, similar to other reports.
It also appears that Sports Media is just one of a few names that perpetrate this scam. Other names listed as possibly being related to Sports Media include The School Booster Company and Signature Sports.
“Now, they are calling saying they are doing a baseball calendar and asking if we want to purchase an ad,” Dettler warned.
The North Dakota Attorney General’s office provides helpful information on potential scams that have already been brought to their attention. Fake invoice scams, such as the one being conducted by Sports Media in the Langdon area, is big business for scam artists. The phony invoice often includes bold type for “renewal” or “past due” in hopes that the business will pay it without paying close attention.
“Our advice is to never pay an invoice if you are not absolutely sure that the services were provided. Also, make the entity provide verification that the ad was authorized either by a written agreement or a telephone call etc.,” Grossman stated.
As local businesses look for was to support local high school activities such as sports, Grossman advised to never agree to advertise in a poster calendar or other publication unless the business has verified the identity or authenticity of the offer with the local high school or its affiliated organizations such as the booster club.
For business owners and residents in the Langdon area, LASD Superintendent Daren Christianson provided the following statement, “The Langdon Area School District has and will continue to contract sports calendars with local vendor, Quality Specialty Products & Printing, so if you are contacted by an out-of-state vendor in regards to a sports calendar, they have nothing to do with your local school district.”
Karla Rademacher, owner and operator of Quality Specialty Products & Printing, stated that only she or one of her employees would call or visit in person with area businesses once in the fall for purchasing an ad on the sports calendar.
“We charge about $40 to $65 depending on the size for the ad on the sports calendar we produce, and we only produce a calendar around the beginning of school,” Rademacher said.
While there has not been any mention of a scam using the St. Alphonsus Catholic School, Principal Derek Simonsen stated that St. Alphonsus co-ops with LASD for all sports, and LASD handles anything sports information related.
Grossman stated that when these types of solicitations are received, residents of the state are encouraged and asked to contact the attorney general’s consumer protection division.
“If you receive a solicitation from a entity or advertiser that you are unfamiliar with or that is not located in your community or surrounding area, it likely could be a scam,” Grossman said.
To lodge a complaint to the North Dakota Attorney General Consumer Division, please call 1-800-472-2600 within ND only or the general office at 701-328-2210.