Scammers target community newspaper advertisers

NCW Media Inc., publishers of Leavenworth Echo, Cashmere Valley Record, Lake Chelan Mirror, Quad City Herald and Okanogan-Valley Gazette-Tribune, has received reports of individuals fraudulently posing as newspaper company representatives asking for payment from advertisers.

At this point, scammers appear to be targeting customers who purchased classified advertisements in the newspapers. It appears they are getting this information directly from printed advertisements or from the Internet. The perpetrator calls on the phone and tells advertisers their ads have not been paid or that payment was returned. Victims are asked to provide a current credit card, which the scammer then uses to unlawfully obtain funds from the victim’s bank account.

“We regret that a few of our treasured customers have been harmed by this. It is sad that there are a few disreputable people who are always looking for a way to cheat others instead of just earning an honest living,” said Bill Forhan Chief Executive Officer of NCW Media. “We want to warn customers that we are concerned about this fraud and ask for their assistance in helping to bring these thieves to justice,”

Advertisers who believe they have been victims of this scam are encouraged to contact NCW Media’s corporate office in Leavenworth at (509) 548-5286 as well as their county sheriff’s office or local police department. Callers who have already given financial information to callers should also call their banks to place an immediate hold on bank accounts and begin a fraud investigation.

The newspaper does attempt to collect payment on returned checks and invalid credit card payments, so advertisers may receive calls from the newspaper asking for payment. But to be sure you are talking to an authorized newspaper representative, use the following tips:

• Ask callers to identify themselves and the office they are calling from. If you don’t recognize the caller, hang up and call your local newspaper office directly.

• Before providing payment information to a caller, verify the call is from the newspaper by asking for information that would be unknown to scammers. That could be your billing address or payment information. The newspaper can verify your original payment method, such as the check number and banking institution or the last four digits and expiration date on credit cards.

• If the caller claims your check was returned or credit card was declined, verify what the caller is saying by calling your banking institution or checking a recent bank statement.

• Collect any information about the call that you can, like the caller’s name, telephone number and time of phone call. Provide this information to local law enforcement and NCW Media.

NCW Media Inc. publishes five community newspapers in North Central Washington, including The Leavenworth Echo, Cashmere Valley Record, Lake Chelan Mirror, Quad City Herald and Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune. Company headquarters are in Leavenworth at the Leavenworth Echo, (509) 548-5286.