Safety & Security

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How Event Owners Can Combat Scammers

3 Apr, 2019

By: Michael Popke

An out-of-state company calling local businesses and residents in Vernon, Connecticut — posing as a representative of a local school district and fraudulently soliciting donations for a youth sports program called “Rockville Athletics” — has prompted an investigation by the Vernon Police Department and the Connecticut Attorney General’s office.

“Police said that the business did not have permission from the school district to collect any funds, and the school has not received any of the donations that have been collected,” reports the Fairfield Daily Voice. “According to police, several local businesses sent checks to the solicitors for an undisclosed amount of money, believing that the funds would be used for athletic programs. The solicitor recently mailed the school a small amount of low-quality printed T-shirts with the school logo and advertisements for the donors. Investigators noted that the school district did not request the shirts and the company did not have permission to print them on behalf of Vernon Public Schools.”

Vernon police have warned members of the community to be vigilant when making donations.

“Checks should be made out and mailed directly to the organization and not a third party, police said,” cautioned the Connecticut Post. “When in doubt, call the organization to verify that the request for donations is legitimate, police said. Anyone who feels a request for a donation is fraudulent should call the police.”

It’s by no means a first, though; in fact, it’s a scam that surfaces multiple times per year across the U.S. The Hudson Valley News Network noted that local residents were receiving e-mails and telephone calls from persons claiming to be representatives of a company called Youth Sports Publications out of New Windsor, New York, who solicited donations purportedly to fund publication of yearbooks for local Little League teams. (Little League officials, however, had advised the Sheriff’s Office that no legitimate yearbook fundraising activities were being conducted by those organizations.)

And there are plenty of others. In fact, the Internet search results for keywords like “youth sports phone scam” come back with enough hits to have pages bulging with them. The problem of e-mails and phone calls from unverified numbers with solicitations for unauthorized phone callers is widespread – and it keeps proliferating.

So what should event owners do? A few hints, courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission, can be passed along to event participants:

  • Make sure event participants know that any verified information on your tournament will originate from the official website and e-mail or from phone numbers associated with your office.
  • Caution participants not to believe it if a caller says they are from your office or from an authorized vendor with your organization.
  • Remind them not to send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an e-mail.
  • It is possible to fake out a caller I.D.Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls your participants asking for money or personal information, let them know they can just hang up.
  • Let your participants know you’ll never ask for upfront payment immediately that doesn’t go through your registration or sponsorship portal.
  • If people have already paid, find out how. Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram may not be refundable. That’s also true for reloadable cards (like MoneyPak or Reloadit) and gift cards (like iTunes or Google Play).
  • Ask your participants, if they receive a call, to hang up and call your office instead. (This includes robocalls).

And yes, while there are some legitimate fundraising operations that contract with organizations such as youth baseball and soccer, it’s never a good idea to give money blindly. Encourage a healthy dose of skepticism and let them know the best offense is a good defense.

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