LABA discusses business scam involving advertising in Bi-Lo storefronts

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, April 5, 2017

LANDRUM – The Landrum Area Business Association discussed during their meeting on Tuesday, April 4 a scam going around Landrum and Polk County involving advertising for businesses at local Bi-Lo grocery stores.

According to Magan Etheridge, president of the LABA, a man using two aliases is  selling advertisements for businesses to be placed in the windows of the Columbus and Landrum Bi-Lo grocery stores.

“He’s going through Polk County and Landrum and using the names Scott Bailey or Thomas Bailey,” Etheridge explained to LABA members. “I know my friends at Searcy Automotive were visited by him and he’s charging $275 or more to put advertisements in the windows of these Bi-Los, on benches and billboards at Bi-Lo.”

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Etheridge explained Bi-Lo policy is to not have any advertisements in their windows and added the man is posing as the owner or manager of one of the two Bi-Lo stores in Columbus and Landrum.

Advertising with Bi-Lo has to be done through the grocery store chain’s corporate office in Jacksonville, Fla., according to Jerome Brown, customer service manager at the Bi-Lo in Columbus.

Karolyn Hooper, owner of Hoop’s Antiques in Tryon with her husband Scott, said they paid $350 for an advertisement and signed a contract. She added she and her husband were not made aware of the scam until Entegra Bank in Columbus cashed the check and bank teller Margeaux Lewis messaged her on Facebook.

“We’re new here and we didn’t know anything about the scam until Margeaux at our bank let us know after they had cashed the check,” Hooper said. “He came in and set up an appointment with us, had some signs for us to look at and we signed a contract. We’re never going to see that money again and, for us, that’s like a day of sales. It’s kind of embarrassing.”

Tiffany Freel, secretary of the LABA, and an insurance agent at State Farm in Landrum, said the man and a younger individual pulled up to her business to ask her to advertise. She explained the younger individual would stand behind the car to hide the license plate from view.

“If he calls you, let our police department know,” Freel said. “He had no business card. I asked them four times and they will play it off. So I kept asking and they kept playing it off. It wouldn’t be bad to set up an appointment and then let the police department in on it.”

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office posted on their Facebook page on Saturday, April 1 about the scam. Businesses including The Brick Pizzeria in Columbus, Purrrfect Bark in Columbus and Huckleberry’s in Tryon commented on the post and said the individuals had visited them.

Business owners can contact the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 828-894-3001 and the Landrum Police Department at 864-457-7281 to report details about the individuals and scam.