Scammers try to cash in with donations from alumni

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    Charitable alumni beware: scammers posing as TCU students are reportedly targeting alumni to make some fast cash. Tracy Syler-Jones, vice chancellor for marketing and communication, said she has received about five phone calls from concerned alumni indicating that individuals had contacted them, saying they were TCU students selling magazine subscriptions to raise money for a trip to London.

    One of these calls came from Groves, near the Port Arthur area from an alumnus who said they were a victim of the magazine scam.

    Tressie Nichols, speaking for her grandmother, Tressie Shiflet, said a young man came to her door at about 5 p.m. April 3. He said his name was Kenny Davenport and that he was a senior at TCU living on Whitaker Avenue, a street just a few blocks away from their house.

    Nichols said the young man told her grandmother he was raising money for a trip to London where he would be performing “Monty Python” at the Globe Theater. He told Shiflet the play would be aired on PBS on April 11.

    He then said he only needed $96 more for his trip, and, if she wrote him a check for that amount, she would receive a rebate check for $43 in three days because she was a TCU alumnus.

    Nichols said her grandmother chose to send the magazines to Children’s Medical Center of Dallas.

    Three days later, when the rebate check did not arrive, Nichols said she and her grandmother decided to look in the phone book for a Davenport listed on Whitaker. When they did not find a listing, they decided to call TCU.

    Nichols said a TCU staff member told her there was no such trip to London and that the university would never send students door-to-door to raise money.

    Nichols said they then decided to call the Groves Police Department and the Better Business Bureau to report the scam.

    Nichols said the man had apparently been in the neighborhood using an assortment of names and fundraising schemes.

    “When I called the Better Business Bureau and started telling them what happened, they asked me what name he was using today,” Nichols said.

    She said he went to her cousin’s house saying he was a student at Texas A&M raising money for soldiers in Iraq.

    In an article in The Port Arthur News, Jeff Wilmore, interim city marshal said any legitimate door-to-door salesman in Groves will have permits issued through the city and will have gone through background checks.

    Wilmore said residents should ask salesmen for their credentials before listening to their sales pitch in order to be safe from schemers.

    Syler-Jones said that after receiving reports she sent an e-mail to donors alerting them of the scams and put information about the scams on the TCU Web site.

    She said this is not a widespread problem but they did think it was important for the university to alert donors. She said she was hopeful that making the information public would bring a halt to this sort of activity in relation to TCU.

    “This is certainly not widespread but we do want to be proactive,” Syler-Jones said.

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