October 2, 2014

Fake Scholastic scammers are trying to rob New York schools


Pictured: NOT the crooks trying to rob schools.

Pictured: NOT the crooks trying to rob schools.

For a company that’s won the coveted F rating from the Better Business Bureau, Scholastic School Supply isn’t giving up their dreams to scam money out of schools nationwide. They’re taking an approach to something that many students consider a scam (paying for overpriced textbooks) and taking out the “textbook” part. Fiendish! And now, local.

New York Attorney General Eric Schniederman recently issued a consumer fraud alert across the state in response to reports of New York schools receiving fake invoices which claim payment owed for textbooks that were never ordered or shipped.

Scholastic School Supply has mailed invoices with a return address listed as 1350 E. Flamingo Rd. Suite 820, Las Vegas, NV 89110. There have also been reports of the scam in other states across the country. Invoices include book details such as the book format (i.e. paperback, workbook), publication date, the number of pages, the weight, and even the ISBN. The Better Business Bureau has reported that, as of earlier this month, it has received at least 51 complaints from school districts in 22 states and over 2,300 inquiries regarding this scam.

The BBB profile notes that the only addresses associated with SSS are mail drops, and while no school has admitted to paying the fake invoices (and we really don’t envy the poor AP rep who ends up being the first to do so) SSS has already made another enemy in their pilot-fish-like attempt to draft on real Scholastic’s good name:

Scholastic Inc’s legal counsel issued the following statement: “Scholastic School Supply is not affiliated with Scholastic. It is a company that is illegally using Scholastic’s name and trademark. We only recently became aware of them, but our legal department has demanded that they cease and desist using Scholastic’s name and trademark, which they have agreed to do but have not done yet. In addition, we have been investigating this company and will continue to do so, and if we determine that this company is allegedly violating any other laws, rules or regulations, we will take prompt appropriate action.”

This is a standard, if analog, version of scam calls and emails that most people delete without a second thought, but it does have a few terrifying implications. For instance, once this scam peters out, do the folks behind it plan to impersonate another publisher? Which one? And will they stick to the textbook con or will they expand into the trade world? Other potential scammers to watch out for:

1) Random Penguin House

2) Hatchet Book Group

3) O’Millan

4) Simon & Garfunkel

6) HelperCollins

Just remember: if you get an invoice from us and Melville is spelled wrong, it could be a slip of the paw from our new editor, but it’s probably a scam.

Liam O'Brien is the Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.