School district warns against suspicious ad campaigns

Recently, the Indian River School District warned the public of a potential scam involving solicitations for an anti-bullying campaign.

It started in mid-January, when a local business owner was asked to purchase $2,000 worth of advertisements from an out-of-state advertising company.

“She received a phone call from somebody claiming to be working with the Indian River School District on an anti-bullying campaign,” said David Maull, IRSD spokesperson. “She thought it didn’t sound right. … Obviously, we would never solicit our residents for something like that, ever.”

It might sound like an authentic company, but there were red flags.

“The [local] business owner told us they were working with the guidance counselors,” Maull said. But the advertising company refused to answer when IRSD staff requested the counselor’s name. “That set up a red flag, when they refused to say who they were working with.”

Companies might sell ad space, claiming to distribute flyers or magnets in partnership with local fire companies or schoolchildren. There might be campaigns for serious issues: bullying, fire prevention or gun safety.

“The two investigators we have on staff — they’re both former detectives. They said it’s most likely a scam,” Maull said.

“These solicitations are not affiliated with the Indian River School District and are most likely fraudulent. Please do not make donations to this campaign,” the district announced publicly.

Maull said he wasn’t aware of many scams attempting to piggyback on the school district.

Local businesses are typically very generous in sponsoring legitimate fundraisers and student activities, he said, and “We certainly don’t want to put any damper on that. They need their funds to go to competition and all that,” Maull said. But potential donors have a right to ask the district about suspicious phone calls.

“If it sounds shady, or there’s something not right about it, please call the district and we can look into it,” he said. “We’re really glad that she did that. Otherwise we wouldn’t be aware of that.”

The Indian River School District headquarters is located in Selbyville and can be reached at (302) 436-1000.

Telephone scams should also be reported to the Delaware State Police and the Federal Trade Commission.

“We also use additional information you report, like any names or numbers you’re told to call back, to track down scammers,” according to the FTC. “Your reports also help law enforcement identify the people behind illegal calls.”


By Laura Walter
Staff Reporter