Exclusive: Vegas TV Ad Scammer Hits West Coast
Says his client is Netflix, but turns out to be sketchy memorabilia outfit, and skips town without paying
By Michael Malone -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/12/2011 3:55:57 PM
A man operating under the names Tyler Hilman and Jonathan Hilman, who is said to have duped multiple Las Vegas TV stations, has popped up again in the Pacific Northwest.
Tyler Hilman, using an email address made to look like one from the ad agency PHD, allegedly tricked at least two Vegas stations recently, including KLAS and KVVU, into running spots for what is reported to be a dubious memorabilia outfit after saying the avails were for Netflix. Hilman then disappeared without paying for the air time, according to the affected stations.
On Oct. 11, a man calling himself Jonathan Hilman, this time with an email address that resembled one from global ad agency OMD's Seattle office, contacted KATU Portland (Ore.) and KOMO Seattle about running spots for "our client, Netflix," as he put it in the email. Hilman claimed he wanted a package of daytime or primetime shows with strong ratings, with the campaign starting Oct. 14.
KATU's rep firm, Eagle Television, contacted OMD, according to Eagle TV Group Sales Manager Julie Cleland, who said OMD confirmed to her that the request was a fraud. "They said he doesn't work for OMD," she says, "and neither do they have the Netflix account."
An OMD spokesperson verified Cleland's account.
The "ad" in Hilman's email address, which features the "omdad.com" suffix, indicated a red flag to Cleland.
KATU and KOMO, both part of Fisher, did not do transactions with Hilman.
The Vegas stations were not so lucky. Hilman had told station sales personnel that the spots were to be for Netflix, according to KLAS President/General Manager Emily Neilson. The stations did not vet the ads, as they appeared to come from the PHD agency they frequently deal with. (True to his m.o., Hilman used an email address that appeared to mimic a PHD account.) The ads turned out to be for a memorabilia dealer with the website everymemorabilia.com -- which routes users to neautograph.com.
Ad sales vets have reason to be suspicious of neautograph.com, as it receives an F rating from the Better Business Bureau in New York and California. (Neautograh.com also pops up on the consumer watchdog site ripoffreport.com for dealing autographs that buyers have claimed are bogus.)
Neautograph.com mentions offices in New York and Huntington Beach on its site. Email inquiries to neautograph.com were not returned, and no phone number for neautograph.com is given on the site.
Inquiries to Hilman's latest email address and phone number were not returned at presstime.
Neilson suspects Hilman has extensive experience in local TV sales. "We just want to save other stations [from being duped]," she says. "If we can save them, then [Hilman's] message doesn't necessarily get out to consumers."
Neilson has been searching for a law enforcement entity to look into the case. She has contacted the Nevada attorney general's office about Hilman's actions, but at presstime had not connected with a representative from that office.
Netflix did not return calls regarding an apparent scammer misrepresenting the hot entertainment company.
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