KINGSTON — Using a newly constructed high school to scam people out of money is Ed Waterman’s idea of one of the sleaziest thing a con artist can do. And he felt a phone call from the Texas-based company Sports Promotions Group was just such a situation after receiving a suspicious sounding sales pitch seeking advertising dollars for the new Kingston High School.
The call, and the motivation behind it, was actually a huge misunderstanding between the company and a member of the KHS booster club, said North Kitsap School District public relations director Chris Case.
“It turned out this isn’t a scam, but an incredible screw up,” she said. “Someone in the future booster club called them, but the company did this without authority. The head of the booster club called back after he found out what happened and told them to back off, but the company hasn’t.”
Sports Promotions made two sales during the mess, both for seat cushions supposedly supporting KHS. Case said this was unlikely as the school’s groups, like the PTA and booster club, are still getting organized, and advertising for the school is also still in the works. Neither are ready to approach advertising companies yet, though they may be in August or September.
Waterman — president and CEO of the Kingston-based Entertainment Northwest — alerted Case, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and the Herald Tuesday after receiving a suspicious phone call on his company’s local line, which is only listed in the Kingston phonebook. Usually he receives work calls on an 888-line set up for that purpose.
“I received a call seeking ad revenue for the new Kingston High School,” he said. “It sounded suspicious, so I immediately started asking the woman questions, trying to determine if this was a scam. Her manager got on the line, and he sounded like a strip club bouncer. The whole call sounded suspicious to me.”
Waterman traced the call to a Texas number, and got to work trying to reveal if it was a scam so he could put the word out to other Kingston businesses. He said he thought the company was running through the phonebook trying to get as many credit card numbers as possible.
“Someone is always trying to pull a scam,” said KCSO public information officer Scott Wilson. There have been several scams in the past based around the concept of raising money for a specific school or district. “Someone is always trying a new angle. We will be looking into this.”
The NKSD has attempted stop Sports Promotions from calling North End businesses with little success, Case said. The only thing the district can do is warn business owners away from giving money to the company. Though the telemarketers will say it’s authorized, one of the names they give as someone who signed off on it is a special education teacher from Breidablik Elementary School.
“This was a very nice lady trying to do the right thing,” Case said. “The thing is, it seems she was potentially trying to get information, and the company took that as a sign to start calling everyone. We called over a month ago and said this is not authorized and they continue to make calls. There will be legitimate fundraising farther in the future, but this is not it.”
“It’s a despicable thing to try and use a school to scam people,” Waterman said.