Its that time of year when consumers need to be wary of deceptive door-to-door magazine salespeople, who often claim theyre raising money for college, charity, or class trips.
The Better Business Bureau says it has received 1,100 complaints in the past year from consumers nationwide who say they lost money in fraudulent door-to-door magazine sales schemes.
The companies behind these schemes often hire high-school or college-age students and send them to neighborhoods nationwide to peddle magazines door-to-door. In many cases, these salespeople do not have the licenses required to sell products door-to-door. Some also use high pressure sales tactics or make misleading statement to convince consumer to buy the magazines.
According to the BBB, some salespeople claim theyre raising money to get their lives back in order. Others say the money from the magazine subscriptions will help a charity, pay for a school trip, or support the troops in Iraq.
Many consumers whove fallen for these ploys say theyve never received their promised and paid for magazines.
Because sales representatives are typically high school or college-age, victims readily believe the potentially fictitious sales pitch and often pay several hundred dollars for the subscriptions by personal check given directly to the sales reps, said Steve Cox, BBB spokesperson. Most complaints against such companies allege that sales reps took their check and the magazines never arrived, however, some complainants also allege being subjected to high-pressure and misleading sales tactics.
The BBB says it has received complaints about more than 50 companies selling magazines door-to-door. Consumers said those companies often failed to deliver the magazines consumers purchased. They also said salespeople made such misleading comments as: they wouldnt get to eat that day if they didnt sell a magazine subscription, they were neighborhood kids trying to raise money for a class trip, or the magazines consumers purchased would be sent to the troops serving in Iraq.
One consumer even called the police because she felt threatened by a salesperson who allegedly became angry when she wouldnt buy a magazine.
The BBB says consumers arent the only ones duped in these door-to-door magazine schemes.
The young salespeople are also potentially being taken advantage of by their employers and forced to work long hours, endure substandard living conditions and have their wages withheld from them, Cox said.
Consumers can protect themselves from getting taken in a door-to-door magazine scheme by:
• Making sure the company selling the magazines doesnt have any complaints on file with the BBB, or other consumer protection groups;
• Never letting any salesperson high pressure them into buying a product;
• Asking the salesperson if theyre licensed and demanding to see a copy of that license.
Under the Federal Trade Commissions Three-Day Cooling-Off Rule, consumers have three days to cancel orders totaling more than $25 if those purchases were made in their home -- or at a location that is not the sellers permanent place of business. The salesperson should give consumers a copy of their receipt and a completed cancellation form they can send to the company. The law stipulates that companies must give customers a refund within 10 days of receiving the cancellation notice.
Consumers whove lost money in fraudulent magazine sales schemes can file complaints with their local law enforcement agencies, their states attorney generals office, and the Better Business Bureau.