BBB: Beware of scam artists acting as school fundraisers

The start of the school year is quickly approaching and many high school sports teams and clubs will be looking for ways to fundraise. One popular method is by selling sponsorships in programs and school calendars, but unfortunately, con artists may capitalize on this back-to-school spirit. 

Better Business Bureau's Emily Valla says the BBB often hears about cold calls to businesses from advertisers claiming to be selling ad space in items such as t-shirts, posters, calendars, and coupon cards.

"Unfortunately, in some cases the business will pay up, but the items are never produced," Valla said.

One business the BBB is closely watching is Sports Media, which claims to be based out of Oregon.

"Last fall, BBB recognized a pattern of complaints from consumers regarding advertising, delivery and customer service issues. Consumers allege after agreeing to sponsor a local high school team through advertising on a team related piece of collateral, they find the high school has never agreed to the advertising, the advertising does not benefit the high school sports program and they cannot find proof the advertising was produced or distributed. And to make matters worse, the consumer is sent an invoice and is charged each year for the advertising. Some consumers allege they are charged annually without their permission," Valla explained.

BBB recommends the following when considering working with a selling organization:

  • Research the selling organization by going to www.bbb.org. Find out which organizations will benefit from the sales or sponsorships and what percentage the school district or organization will be receiving.
  • Verify the offer through the benefiting school district or organization. Don’t use contact information provided by the solicitor. Many school districts list approved fundraising programs on the district website.
  • Pay with a credit card, so that you can dispute the charges if necessary. If you do pay by check, make sure you make it out to a business, never to an individual. Avoid giving cash.

For more information, visit www.bbb.org.

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