We spend our Friday nights in the fall cheering for teams like the Wildcats or the Bulldogs, not the Con Artists or the Profiteers.

Yet, out-of-state scammers may seek out money intended to support our hometown athletic teams in order to line their own pockets instead. The Attorney General’s Office commonly hears reports around this time of year about calls or visits from solicitors asking business owners to purchase ads on sports schedules or calendars. The problem is that some solicitors may not be affiliated at all with the school or organization they purport to represent.

Therefore, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert to make sure business owners know about the state law pertaining to school calendar or schedule advertisements and to encourage advertisers to ask questions before buying ad space.

"We value our hometown sports teams, and local businesses often want to do all they can to support them. So, sometimes they can become easy targets for solicitors who may claim to be working on behalf of a school," McDaniel said. "Before buying an ad, it’s always a good idea to call the school or organization to confirm it is associated with the salesperson."

Business owners tend to assume that someone who is promoting advertising for a school athletic schedule is actually working for the school, but that’s not always the case. In some instances, con artists may make sales pitches for products that do not exist.

Other times, legitimate for-profit companies actually produce a schedule or other product. However, those companies may produce items not endorsed by the school, and the school would not receive any portion of the proceeds of the ad buy. The state’s school calendar disclosure law protects businesses against those kinds of solicitations.

The law applies to anyone who solicits advertisements for posters or other printed material depicting a school name, mascot or emblem in conjunction with an athletic program. Solicitors must disclose to potential ad buyers whether a school will receive money as a result of the solicitation and, if so, how much money the school will receive. Any solicitor who does not give money to the school must state both orally and in writing that the school will not receive funding from the sale. Those who violate the calendar disclosure law are subject to penalties under the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

McDaniel encouraged business owners always to read the fine print of any contract, and to contact the school directly if necessary. They should ask school officials whether the officials are aware of the solicitations or are working with the advertising company. If solicitors make false claims about working with a school, business owners should contact the Attorney General’s Office. The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline number is 1-800-482-8982. For more information about this or other consumer issues, visit www.GotYourBackArkansas.org