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Don't fall for the old "I'm with the school" scam

There is a joke that floats around out there that goes, "There are so many scams on the internet these days. Send me $19.95 and I'll tell you how to avoid them." Well, scams obviously aren't exclusive to the internet; in fact, local businesses in this area are occasionally hit with one playing on their community ties. This one happens to incorporate us, as a newspaper, just a bit.

The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota is now officially putting out a warning to small business owners about people who are purportedly selling ad space in community guides that claim to be working with local schools or organizations but, in fact, are not. This has happened more than once around this region, as local businesses are approached by friendly people in person or over the phone who will mention a familiar community guide or magazine that they are working on (it'll be familiar because it will have a very similar title to a publication that is already put out by local newspapers).

That familiar title, combined with somebody saying, "We're working in partnership with the schools to benefit their programs...blah blah blah" is enough to dupe good hearted, small business owners into wanting to support that, and bam—they buy some non-existent advertising that ranges from the hundreds to the thousands. To add insult to injury, not only are these people not working with local groups to help them, but they themselves are from out of state and pocketing every dime.

"This kind of scheme can be doubly disappointing to business owners," said Susan Adams Loyd, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. "First, the business doesn't receive the advertising they paid for. Second, the parties they thought would benefit from their ad buy—local schools or organizations—don't get a cent because there is no partnership."

Sometimes, according to the BBB, these scam artists will even insinuate they're from the paper. We're a small community here, and while regular advertisers know our ad reps by face (and sometimes even know how their families are doing, how their chicken lasagna turned out the other night...etc.) but in the event you're unsure, just give a call to verify before writing out a check to anybody.

It's sad we all have to worry about these things, but the reality is that people without a moral compass seem to think money is the same whether you've earned it or scammed it.

They also know us small communities like to support our local nonprofits and schools, so they bank on it. What they don't know though, is that just because we're from "up north" and have kind hearts, doesn't mean we're quite as gullible as they'd like to think. Stay savvy, friends.