FORT LEE, Va. (June 14, 2012)- Con-artists are using a Fort Lee advertising scam to bilk local businesses out of significant amounts of cash.
The latest known incident occurred in mid-April when a mortgage firm in Colonial Heights paid nearly $600 for ad-space in a “Fort Lee Army Base Referral Guide” that it later learned is a fictitious publication. An identical incident was reported earlier that month by an investment company in Prince George. In 2011, an optometrist office in Richmond was scammed. All of the cases are being investigated by the police and government officials.
Each reported incident shared a common setup. The scammers cold-called or emailed businesses offering the opportunity to advertise in a welcome and referral magazine (in the 2011 case, it was a C.F.N.R. guide for Fort Lee civilian employees). The sales person delivered a convincing pitch, telling potential customers that their business was chosen by Fort Lee personnel to be included in the guide based on its great service and history with the installation.
Once a business agrees to advertise in the publication, an invoice is faxed with a Fort Lee address and insignia in some cases. The business is notified that a bonded and licensed bank courier will pick up their payment. While the courier is legitimate, all other parts of this offer are not.
Local businesses are being warned not to hand over money for advertising in Fort Lee-specific publications (including guidebooks and newspapers) unless they are absolutely certain it’s a legitimate product and the company producing it is has authorization to distribute the item on post.
Currently, the government has a contract with Military Newspapers of Virginia to produce the Fort Lee Traveller, the annual base guide and phone directory, and the Fort Lee map. That agreement authorizes exclusive post-wide distribution, to include all administrative areas, military Family housing and recreational facilities. Other publications can be delivered to subscribers on the installation, but may not be freely displayed on newsstands here without FMWR or the garrison commander’s approval.
Those seeking legitimate advertisements in Fort Lee’s only authorized news publication or guidebook may call the MNV advertising office at (804) 526-8656. Anyone who suspects they are being targeted by scam artists is encouraged to call the local police department to initiate an investigation. For questions about the legitimacy of publications offering advertisement opportunities, contact the Fort Lee Public Affairs Office at 734-7451.