CITYWIDE ‚Äî Santa Monicans beware ‚Äî a scam may be afoot.
At least one Mid-City resident got taken by what appears to be a scam artist who came to her door claiming to sell magazine subscriptions for a nonprofit only to make off with the cash.
A young man showed up at Sylvia Boerner‚Äôs house on the 1400 block of Yale Street on July 24 with a story.
He was working with the Richard Morrison Training Program selling magazines to help fund an addiction recovery program, and hoped to convince Boerner to purchase a few subscriptions.
Although she doesn‚Äôt usually buy things from door-to-door salesmen ‚Äî particularly magazines, which she gets from Germany ‚Äî addiction recovery hit a chord with Boerner.
“That‚Äôs one of the things that I help with,” Boerner explained.
Although the young man tried to convince her to part with $200 or $300 worth of magazines, she settled on donating one of the most inexpensive magazines he offered ‚Äî Discovery ‚Äî to the Challenger Boys & Girls Club in Los Angeles.
She wrote a $31 check and the young man left with promises that the magazine would end up with the Boys & Girls Club.
“As soon as he left, I got leery about it,” Boerner said.
When she looked a few hours later, the check had already been cashed, and a cursory Internet search turned up no information about the Richard Morrison Training Program except for a similarly-disgruntled customer complaining about being scammed in 2005.
A letter to Corey Dantzler, president of the Challenger Boys & Girls Club, discussing the scam evoked a response saying that scam artists had tricked others in Santa Monica and Hollywood into buying magazines by using a duplicate of the Boys & Girls Club website.
“These scam artist(s) copy our website and pose as employees or representatives of our organization and try to get money out of people like yourself,” Dantzler wrote in an e-mail to Boerner. “We don‚Äôt have our employees or our kids do (any) forms of solicitation for funding.”
Dantzler was away and could not be reached for comment.
If people find themselves on the wrong end of a scam, their first stop should be the Santa Monica City Attorney‚Äôs Office Consumer Protection Unit, said Adam Radinsky, who heads up the unit.
Although no one has come to the office with a complaint about door-to-door salesmen, the office encourages people to be careful before giving money or personal information to anyone.
“With something like this, the difficulty is that there‚Äôs no ID on who did this. It‚Äôs just someone door-to-door so it‚Äôs hard to (know) who took the money,” Radinsky said.
The state has strict laws covering donations to nonprofit groups and charities, but door-to-door sales aren‚Äôt as well regulated, Radinksy said.
The Better Business Bureau of South Carolina posted in May warning people of the door-to-door scam, which they termed “a classic.”
The organization recommends that people not allow the alleged salespeople into their homes, and to pay careful attention to the company they claim to be working for.
Don‚Äôt fall for the urgent sell, when the salesperson says that the buyer “must act now” or “they won‚Äôt be by this way again.”
Consumers should also be aware that the Federal Trade Commission has a three-day cooling off rule which gives customers three days to cancel purchases over $25 that are made at their home or a location that is not the seller‚Äôs permanent place of business, according to the BBB.
A cancellation form should accompany any receipt.
If you have a problem with this or any other scam, call the Consumer Protection Unit at (310) 458-8336.
“We always want people to report to us problems like this,” Radinsky said. “We are a central clearing house for consumer problems in town ‚Ä¶ If it‚Äôs something we can handle, we will take it on.”