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Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016: School district issues warning over poster scam

   Leading off today: As the owner and operator of several websites, I'm plenty familiar with scammers looking to separate me from my wallet.

   The most frequent rip-off scheme arrives several times a year through snail mail and at least twice a month via email. These scams come in the form of very official-looking invoices "reminding" me it's time to renew my domain registrations (even when the actual expiration date is many months away) or other services, and the quoted price is typically four to eight times what I pay for the same legitimate service from my actual provider.

   As if on cue, one of those notifications offering search-engine optimization services -- worded just carefully enough to avoid getting a nastygram from the state Attorney General but nevertheless misleading -- showed up in my spam folder at 1:06 a.m. today.

   I mention this only because there's been a new outbreak of an oldie-but-goodie (badie?) scam that's been the scourge of high school and college athletic departments for years.

   Rochester-area media reported Friday that the Canandaigua City School District has received reports that a marketer is sending a false invoice to area companies seeking payments for a winter sports poster that the school district never authorized and in all likelihood will never actually be produced.

   District officials identified the marketer as an outfit calling itself Sports Media and located at 722 Dulaney Valley Road, No. 267, in Towson, Md. A little research shows that address to be a UPS Store, which offers a mail service similar to U.S. Postal Service post-office boxes. Many legitimate businesses uses such boxes, but so do a fair number of scammers seeking to hide their identity.

   Canandaigua school officials are advising business owners to ignore the invoices and urges anyone who is approached by Sports Media to make a report to the Better Business Bureau.

   Don't look for any actual help from the BBB, which says Sports Media is not a member. The BBB in Maryland does say, however, its files "indicate that Sports Media has a pattern of complaints concerning the company billing its customers for services the customers claim to never have signed up for. Your BBB contacted Sports Media on 6/27/14 and requested an explanation for the pattern of complaints, however, as of 7/10/14 no response was received from Sports Media. As of November 13, 2015, the business has indicated that it will not accept or respond to complaints forwarded by BBB."

   One complainant from earlier this year said he twice wrote checks for $149 in 2015 and only learned afterward that his alma mater had no knowledge of a sports poster made by Sports Media nor could they find a copy of a contract.

   More consumer news: A Michigan manufacturer of football helmets has issued a recall notice for four models sold or factory-reconditioned between May 1, 2015, and March 18, 2016. Xenith said the recall was for its Epic Varsity, X2 Varsity, X2E Varsity and Youth football helmets with a gloss or metallic-painted polycarbonate shell.

   Some of the Xenith helmets are ranked among the safest on the market according to Virginia Tech's widely respected testing.

   On its website, Xenith explained that a "flex" chemical additive compound was not added to the paint mixture, which caused the other components of the helmet to be brittle. According to the CPSC website, it received reports of 29 shells cracking with no injuries reported.

   Another Sec. 3 casualty: South Lewis has become the second Section 3 school this week to drop varsity football for the 2016 season, following in the footsteps of Oswego.

   South Lewis was scheduled to participate in the National Football Foundation division for struggling and rebuilding programs. AD Brian Oaks said there were roughly 18 players for each day of practice but nine were freshmen -- some of whom had never played organized football before.

   "We made a decision we felt we had to make for the health and safety for our boys, our football boys," Oaks said. "Our numbers are low. Our experience is low. We have very few kids that have played football in the past."

   South Lewis shut down its varsity team four games into the 2015 season because of a lack of numbers.

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   Oaks told that freshmen players will join the modified football team. He said sophomores, juniors and seniors are being encouraged to join either soccer or cross country teams this fall.

   South Lewis was scheduled to open the season at the Carrier Dome on Sept. 4 against Port Byron/Union Springs.

   Win streak over: The 71-game football winning streak by Edgewood Academy in Elmore, Ala., ended with a thud Friday night. The Wildcats were routed 46-0 by Morgan Academy to open the new season.

   The game was the Wildcats' first since the departure of longtime head coach Bobby Carr, who had piloted the program to the 71 victories, and much of the staff that engineered five straight state championships.

   "This is a learning experience for us," offensive lineman Blake Walters, the lone senior, told the Montgomery Advertiser. "We're going to learn as a team from this, come back and work hard. Tomorrow is another day."

   With the loss, the nation's longest win streak now belongs to Sainte Genevieve (Mo.) Valle Catholic at 45 in a row.

   Speaking of 'bama: The Alabama High School Athletic Association has formed an investigations team charged with vetting transfers and looking for illegal recruiting.

   The $100,000 budget will allow the AHSAA to contract with a private investigator, a former investigator for the state Attorney General's office, a retired investigator with the Alabama State Troopers, a retired school administrator and an investigative journalist. They will be charged with looking into whatever issues the association requests, in particular assuring there is no third-party influence behind transfer requests.

   AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese acknowledged he is embarrassed that such a step is necessary.

   "We should not have to send in the police to enforce the rules," he told, noting that the rules being broken are the ones created by member schools in the first place.

   The AHSAA's recruiting rule resulted in football programs at Muscle Shoals and John Carroll receiving one-year playoff bans earlier this year. The penalties were overturned on appeal.

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