KENNEBUNK, Maine — Kennebunk has strong and well supported athletics. When the Rams are in need, the community digs deep.
"Whenever we need something, budget wise or if we are doing fundraising, people come out and support all of our programs," says Athletic Director Joe Schwartzman.
That's why when the phone rang at The Lighthouse lighting store on Route 1 and someone asked owner Timothy Fossett to donate to the football program, he was happy to help.
"We've been fortunate that we run a successful business and we are happy to share some of that with the community," says Fossett. "It's just disheartening that someone would take advantage of that."
The caller said she was reaching out on behalf of the school and needed a $169 donation to help create football schedule calendars for the fall. Fossett's company donates to several programs including softball, the sport his daughter plays. He paid with a credit card, but got a bad feeling after hanging up the phone.
"The charge was there, but there was no email receipt, so that's when my radar went up that something was wrong," says Fossett. "Then we got an email from Joe (Schwartzman) saying, 'Don't fall for this,' and we said, 'We think we already did.'"
Schwartzman tweeted about the scam after he was contacted by several people to see if the fundraiser was legitimate. People from the local Dairy Queen, Hannaford, Ben and Jerry's and Hidden Pond hotel all told Schwartzman they had been hit up for money.
"It makes me pretty angry," says Schwartzman. "We got the word out, we notified police. They posted about it on their Facebook page, and the district sent out a letter to everyone in the community. There's only so much we can do, but if you are not connected in that way, you might not find out and might get scammed, which is maddening."
Schwartzman says all fundraising is done by the school and the student athletes in person. If you get a call, that's a red flag.
"We don't do stuff over the phone, and we don't have our kids ever do stuff over the phone. So anytime something comes over the phone, I wouldn't trust it," Schwartzman says.
The fear is a scam like this could discourage businesses in Kennebunk, and all over the state, from donating to athletics in the future. Fossett says even though he got tricked, he's still planning to give to the real people who need help.
"Don't not give now because of that," says Fossett. "The school's athletics still need support and 99% of it is still done by good people with good intentions."