Area business recognizes scam, notifies authorities

A FAKE INVOICE appearing to be from Madison High School appeared in the mail of at least one local business. The Madison Police Department at the request of the Greater Madison Area Chamber of Commerce is warning people not to send money to the address listed.

Eric Hortness, executive of the Greater Madison Area Chamber of Commerce, commended a local business for recognizing a scam and providing his office with information to disseminate.

"The manager did an excellent job of verifying and not paying the invoice," he said.

The business, which has not been identified, received an invoice that appeared to be from Madison High School. The document suggested a donation in the amount of $169 had already been authorized.

"They received it in the mail and had a couple follow-up phone calls," Hortness said.

He did not explain what actions were taken, but he said he was contacted so that other Chamber businesses could be notified about the scam. Since receiving the information, he has posted it on the "Members Only" page on the Chamber website and contacted Madison Police Chief Justin Meyer.

"I jumped onto Google Maps, and the address is a UPS Store in Austin, Texas," he said. "I'm always skeptical when you can't locate them on a map."

He said he was asked to help disseminate information and did so via the department's Facebook page. The post, which was shared 21 times, advises individuals and businesses, "If you or your business receive a letter like this, please do not send any money to the return address."

The post included a photo of the invoice which was received. Information about the business which received the fake invoice was blacked out to protect the business' identity.

Hortness pointed out that if 1,000 people paid the fake invoice, the individual running the scam would have raked in a sizeable sum of money. The U.S. Census Bureau indicates the median household income in South Dakota is $58,275, so collecting $169 from 345 businesses or individuals would have enabled the person running the scam to collect more than half of South Dakotans earn.

The matter is not currently under investigation by the Madison Police Department, but those who may be impacted, including the school district, have been notified.

Madison High School Athletic Director Michael Ricke indicated that not all solicitations from outside the area are bogus.

"There are times when outside groups do call and are legitimate," he said, providing the example of the Entringer Classic, which awards scholarships that benefit Madison athletes.

He also noted the MHS Booster Club is a separate entity, so businesses cannot simply look at the letterhead to know if a solicitation is genuine. However, the school district does not work with entities outside the state of South Dakota for these things, so that was a red flad on this occasion.

Ricke encouraged people to call if they have any questions when a situation arises, not only so that questions can be answered but also so the school district is aware that scam letters are being received.

"If anyone has any questions, we would encourage them to call and we could then answer any questions they may have," he both stated and reiterated.