Map scam targets Kent’s local businesses

Carolyn Fertig

Kent’s Chamber of Commerce is warning businesses about a scam soliciting them to buy ads for a Kent City map.

At least a dozen Kent businesses have been solicited for this scam. So far, none of them have given out credit card numbers, said Lori Wemhoff, interim executive director of the Kent Area Chamber of Commerce and Central Portage County Visitors & Convention Bureau visitor’s guide.

Trudy Capel, of the Kent UPS store, received a phone call asking her to renew her ad on the Kent map.

“They obviously had a copy of last year’s map,” she said. “They knew the dimensions of my ad, what was on it and asked if I wanted to change it. Then, they asked for my credit card number – that was a huge red flag.”

If any businesses are contacted about buying an ad in the Kent City map or the Central Portage County Visitors & Convention Bureau Visitor’s Guide, they should contact Kent Area Chamber of Commerce or local authorities, Wemhoff said.

Yesterday morning, a business was contacted about buying an ad. When the business owner told the caller it was a scam, the caller hung up.

Kent is not the only community targeted in Ohio. The Erie County Chamber of Commerce reported similar scams last week, Wemhoff said.

This is not the first time Premier Map Company, which is what the caller claims to be representing, has targeted cities. There have been reports of similar scams in Washington, Iowa, Georgia and Vermont.

Hampton Publishing, not Premier Map Company, printed the maps last year for the Chamber of Commerce and the Visitors & Convention Bureau. This year the chamber is not reissuing the maps, which usually come out every other year, Wemhoff said.

Mike McNeil, president of Hampton Publishing, said the company is not currently publishing maps for the Kent Chamber of Commerce and the Visitors & Convention Bureau this year, so it will not be contacting businesses to renew their advertisements.

The scammers offered a 10 percent discount if the business paid by credit card, Wemhoff said.

“And in these economic times, who is not looking for a discount if they will give their credit card number?” she said. “They are playing games with financial weaknesses.”

Capel was contacted the day before Thanksgiving. The caller offered a “pre-Thanksgiving special.”

“They were trying to pressure people to give their credit card numbers in the rush of the holidays,” she said. “I am really upset that they are trying to ruin the relationship between local businesses and commerce.”

Kevin Long, owner of the Pufferbelly, received a legitimate phone call about an ad, so business owners must be careful and aware of who is on the other line. Ask questions and be alert if something sounds shady, Wemhoff said.

The Kent City Police department is reviewing the police reports and other information at this time, Lt. Jayme Cole said.

“It just amazes me,” Wemhoff said, “And not in a good way. I don’t know why these people don’t think they are going to get caught or that people are not going to catch on to the scam.”

Contact public affairs reporter Carolyn Fertig at [email protected]