Fake Ads Targeting Local Newspapers

By Lura Jackson

 

The Calais Advertiser is one of several community-oriented newspapers around the state that has been targeted by a nefarious phishing scam. The scam, which involves placing fake ads in newspapers, presumably to phish information from callers, has been identified and police have been alerted. A single ad ran in the May 25th issue of the Advertiser that was later identified as a fake ad; repeated attempts to run additional ads by the culprits have been blocked by the Advertiser.

The initial ad, which was for a 2002 Toyota Camry for $2,100, was sent by e-mail to the Advertiser on May 22nd. The ad was paid for with a credit card that was later identified as stolen. The phone number provided in the ad was 315-320-6881, which goes to New York. The owner of the stolen card notified the Advertiser of the unauthorized charges for the ad, and the police were immediately contacted. 

The second ad, which the Advertiser did not run, was for a 1993 Kubota tractor for $2,150. The request was placed by e-mail on June 1st. The number in that case was 857-288-8041, a Massachusetts number. “I felt very, very leery about it, for sure,” said advertising specialist Beth McCray. She did not run the ad and contacted the police with the new information.

A third ad was attempted by the culprits on June 7th, in that case for a 1999 Toyota SUV for $2,150. The number given was 503-389-0046 – to Washington state – and the ad was also requested by e-mail. Clearly noticing the pattern, McCray did not run the ad and the police were notified once again. 

According to McCray, all of the ad requests were received by e-mail from different G-mail accounts, and each time the phone numbers were called to verify the information it was a person with an accent that answered the phone. The ads have run in other local papers.

“We’re still not completely sure how this scam is even working,” said Officer Bill White. “It’s new, I’ve never seen it before.” White, who said the investigation is ongoing, said that he assumes that victimized callers are being asked for their personal information, known as phishing. White said that there is not much the police can do at this point because the phone numbers are no longer good. “With today’s technology, by the time it’s being reported and investigated, it’s already over.” White urged any potential victims to come forward to provide information on what the culprits are looking for.

While The Calais Advertiser is now fully aware of this scam and will prevent similar ads from running, other papers around the state may be less familiar with it. The public is cautioned to be wary of providing any information to people that are not familiar over the phone. “If you call a person from an ad,” said Officer White, “and you’re calling someone you don’t know, and they want any type of information like your date of birth, your social security number, or your credit card information, don’t give it to them.”