Online rumors hurt local foreign exchange student entrepreneurs

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BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - The Ontko family is hosting three students from Poland this summer as they work with a company called Southwestern Advantage to sell educational books.

"It's a great example for our kids. What it means to work hard...they probably work harder in three days than most people do in a week," said Chad Ontko.

Both Chad and his wife, Lamar Ontko, worked for Southwestern Advantage in college and jumped on the opportunity to host students this summer.

"What we do is selling educational books all the way from the little troublemakers to the seniors in high school," said Michalina Kaczor.

For some of the students, it has been a lifelong goal to come here.

"This is a great experience for me. It was my dream to come to America and I can feel my personal growth here," said Weronika Swit.

What they didn't expect was for a post to spread online that they were here for the wrong reasons.

"The first post that I saw essentially accused the students in being involved in a sex-trafficking scheme," said Lamar Ontko.

Posts on Facebook and the Nextdoor app said the door-to-door sales were a front to find out more about children in the area. Some users said their biggest fear is "child sex-trafficking." Another said, "My thought process in many cases is, "Better safe than sorry." I don't want to be the story about how I failed to see the warning signs or take safety precautions, etc. and watch someone I love become a victim of (insert act here.) Be it, burglary, kidnapping, sexual abuse and so on. We all just need to listen to our instincts better." Lamar Ontko said the rumors make her sick to her stomach.

"My heart hurts for these girls and my heart hurts for the needless pain that they're suffering as a result of somebody sharing something without fact checking," said Ontko.

The students said they wonder how the rumor even started. They say they have their permits and try not to make anybody feel uncomfortable.

"We don't want to make any trouble. We didn't want to make anybody feel like bad about us being in the community," said Kaczor.

“I don’t want to make anything wrong and I don’t want to scare people," added Kinga Kryspin.

Bill McGuire with the Better Business Bureau confirmed the rumors are false and the company has been accredited since 1961.

"I don't think it's going to hurt you, just because they have an accent that's unlike ours, to allow them to come in and sit down and talk to you about their product," said McGuire.

He says if you're not interested, the solution is simple.

"You can close your door, lock it, and watch them walk away," said McGuire.

The Ontkos said they hope the false speculations get squashed quickly.

"These students are good students. I just wish that people would quit spreading rumors," said Ontko.

The Better Business Bureau says that if you are concerned about a solicitor who comes to your door you can ask for a permit and if you feel threatened call 9-1-1.