Wednesday, July 24, 2024

‘It was too good to be true’: Grand Strand businesses warning others after falling victim to ad scam

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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – The search is on for a man accused of swindling a pair of small business owners in Little River.

”I guess it was too good to be true, and it was,” said Not That Tech Savvy? owner, Brandon Stride.

“How many people do that in front of you?” said Signarama owner, Kevin Runnells.

Stride and Runnells were scammed out of $200 combined after they said a man going by “Steve Phillips” sold them ads in his magazine, The Golf Reporter. The owners would later discover the magazine doesn’t seem to exist.

In a video Stride shared with WMBF News, you can see “Phillips” pull out his paperwork, as Stride and Runnells claim he told them he was a pro golfer. The business owners said “Phillips” seemed confident and didn’t skip a beat during his sales pitch.

The businessman and “magazine editor” said his ads started at just $20, but he convinced both business owners to fork out $100. He promised a full-page ad and a complimentary golf lesson.

“I didn’t feel like it was a scam or anything. It all felt really legit. I felt so comfortable because he was naming places I was familiar with,” said Stride.

A police report shows the incident happened in May, but both businesses went months without realizing their mistake until recently. Signarama went to turn in its ad for the magazine, but didn’t hear back from “Phillips.”

“We came up with the designs. We got them in prior to the cut-off date, but we were never able to hear back from the gentleman,” said Runnells.

The business owners are now relying on surveillance video to help track down the scammer, who WMBF News also learned has pulled off a scheme like this at at least five other businesses in North Carolina.

WMBF News reporter Ashley Listrom took a trip to the mailing address “Phillips” provided his targets. When she arrived, all she found was just an ordinary shopping center, with no sign of The Golf Reporter magazine.

While the search for the scammer continues, businesses affected are now issuing a warning, seeking to prevent more of their peers from falling victim.

“I try to do certain things, but when you get scammed like this, you’re going to back off and say, ‘I just don’t want to do it,’ so that hurts non-profit organizations. That hurts the people that are doing it for good reasons,” said Runnells.

Authorities in both South and North Carolina are investigating. If you know anything about this situation, please reach out to law enforcement.

Stay with WMBF News for updates.

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