Local school warns of advertising scam

Staff at Cook Inlet Academy are warning community members to be wary of an Idaho-based company soliciting money on the school’s behalf.

Mary Rowley, the school administrator, said Cook Inlet Academy staff have become aware that residents and school supporters have been purchasing ads in calendars sold by a company called Pocket Pros under the assumption that the money will go to the school’s athletic program — but it doesn’t. The calendars have the Cook Inlet Academy name on them, Rowley said, as well as the various schedules of the school’s sports teams.

Rowley said the school does this type of fundraising itself and was not aware the company was using its name.

“We would never use a third party to advertise,” Rowley said.

Pocket Pros is based out of Nampa, Idaho, according to the Idaho Secretary of State website. There is no listing for the company under the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, under the division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing.

After having talked to a few people who have recently paid the $75 for an ad in the calendars — one woman told Rowley she has been buying them for years — Rowley said it appears Pocket Pros includes a disclaimer at the bottom of its invoice in fine print telling customers it isn’t affiliated with or endorsed by the school.

Cook Inlet Academy has posted a warning to its Facebook page, and Rowley said she has filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau but has not heard back yet.

Fran Jones said she has purchased ads for the business she owns with her husband, Buckets Sports Grill, for pocket calendars in the past, though she is not sure whether they have always been through Pocket Pros. She said she became aware that it was a scam when she saw Cook Inlet Academy’s Facebook post.

The company had called her and sent her repeated emails asking her to purchase an ad, which Jones said she ignored. Yet, a stack of the calendars and a bill still arrived for her, so she sent the company a check on Wednesday because the school’s name on the calendars, which led her to think they money was for the school.

Jones said she would normally prefer to donate directly to the school anyway, and wants people to be know about the business’s practice of calling people and asking for advertisers.

“I just want them to be aware that just because it’s local, that doesn’t mean it’s honest,” Jones said.

Rowley encouraged others who have purchased the ads from Pocket Pros to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

“We just feel terrible that people think that they were supporting our school and they weren’t,” she said.

In September 2012, the Aberdeen Times in Idaho published a post warning that Pocket Pros was advertising the calendars for a local high school there. A May 2014 bulletin published by the chamber of commerce in Stoughton, Wisconsin also warned against the calendar advertising from the company.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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