Scammers targeting newspaper advertisers

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By Lisa King

Scam artists have found yet another new way to try to separate people from their money, and this one involves classified ads.

At least four newspapers around Kentucky, including The Sentinel-News, are being used by scammers who are calling phone numbers listed in classified ads and soliciting payments and important personal information.

Reanna Smith, communications director at the Better Business Bureau in Louisville, said the calls started Tuesday afternoon.

"The caller is using a cell phone that is registered in Bardstown," she said. "The caller is telling the advertiser that they are an employee of the newspaper and there was a problem with the prepayment of their ad, then asks the customer to provide their personal information."

On Wednesday one of the advertisers of The Sentinel-News was contacted and told that the company owed a payment on its account. A representative of that company declined to provide any account information.

"We were really angry to learn that someone was trying to scam our customers," Sentinel-News Publisher Kerry Johnson said. "We are doing everything we can to work with the authorities, and we want to remind folks if anyone calls from the newspaper asking for your personal information, please hang up and call us back. That's the best way to  protect your self.

"We are sorry if this has happened to anyone."

Smith said that the BBB knows of advertisers with The News Enterprise in Elizabethtown and The Cynthiana Democrat who have been targeted. The Kentucky Standard in Bardstown also reported a customer was contacted by the scammer, but that customer did not give out banking information.

Smith said that the Bardstown Police Department has been notified and that at least one customer had provided information to the caller, though she did not say in which community that had occurred.

All four newspapers are owned by Landmark Community Newspapers, which is based in Shelbyville, and share a regional database of classified ads.

Shelby County Sheriff Mike Armstrong cautions never to give out personal information unless you know for sure to whom you are talking. He suggests that if you have doubts to hang up, look up the number and contact the business.

"You should be leery of anybody who calls you and wants your personal information," he said.

Armstrong said if you think you have been scammed, you should contact law enforcement in your area and report it.

"Also, if somebody is able to get a phone number for the scam artist on their caller ID, they should call and give that to us," he said.

    (BOX) Numbers to report a scam   Attorney General: 1-888-432-9257 Better Business Bureau: 1-800-388-2222 Shelbyville Police: 502-633-2326 Shelby County Sheriff: 502-633-4324 Sentinel-News: 502-633-2526