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BRADENTON POLICE DEPARTMENT
Thursday April 5th, 2012 :: 03:15 p.m. EDT

Community

Manatee citizen scammed by magazine salesman prompts tips from Bradenton Police Dept. Crime Prevention Division.

After recently receiving yet another complaint of a door-to-door scam, the Bradenton Police Department, Crime Prevention Division wants to offer some tips to our community members.

Gone are the days of the friendly door-step chats with the Fuller Brush man. I haven’t seen an encyclopedia salesman since I was a small child. So who exactly are these people that we often see going door-to-door through our neighborhoods with flyers, clipboards, spray-bottles of soap and baskets of eight-dollar Twinkies? Are they operating legally? Is it safe to open our doors to them? What if the person is well-dressed and has a professional demeanor and friendly smile? How do we tell the difference between and honest business person and a scam artist or a burglar casing our homes? The people we see going door to door seem to fall into certain categories:

THE REAL DEAL
Employees of Bradenton Businesses: This person represents a company that is operating legally at a Bradenton address and simply wants to generate sales, expand its customer base or increase awareness of their products and services. They hold any required state licenses for their business as well as properly register and pay business taxes to the City of Bradenton. We don’t see many of our businesses going door to door any more. Perhaps it is because it simply isn’t cost-effective with so many other good advertising and direct sales options coupled with new technology.

ON THE FRINGE
“Independent Contractors”: Many magazine salesmen operate as an independent contractor for a Limited Liability Company (LLC). Their sales pitches include claims that they are earning college money or competing for large prizes. I have heard of countless people who have given money (cash and checks) for magazines that were never received. Some of the salespeople are scammers and some are just young people getting scammed by the company. Here is a link to a fascinating inside look into the world of door-to-door magazine sales: http://listofscams.blogspot.com/2010/01/door-to-door-magazine-sales-scams-tips.html
If you’ve been scammed you can read here to see how to report it: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/telemarketing/tel03.shtm
You can Google the term “magazine scam” and really educate yourself. Has anyone actually received the magazines they ordered? I haven’t heard of any who have, but then, people usually don’t call the police to report that they got what they ordered. So do your own research, and then YOU decide.

Some large corporations (such as some popular burglar alarm companies) will hire independent contractors to sell their systems. Since they are not corporate employees, they do not undergo a background check, drug screen, etc. Almost anyone can become an authorized dealer and the unscrupulous ones do not fulfill their obligations to register as a business in our city. Again, you really need to do your homework and know who you are dealing with. If you are in the market for a product such as a new alarm system, water purifier or whatever, you are best off not waiting for someone to come to your door. Do your homework and you initiate the contact.

“Home Improvement Scammers”: If someone knocks on your door offering to trim your trees, repave your driveway, repair your roof or do other home improvement work with their leftover materials or because they are already in the area, BEWARE. You may think it’s just a hard-working person trying to make a living – and maybe it is… but it’s probably a scam. The scammer takes your money and does sub-par work or no work at all. They are not properly licensed or insured and you open yourself up to liability if you allow them to work for you (IF they do any work). If that doesn’t convince you, consider this: it is a criminal offense in the state of Florida to knowingly HIRE an unlicensed contractor. Don’t get nailed: hire only licensed contractors. If you don’t know how to go about finding a licensed contractor or how to pull proper permits for work, simply call the City of Bradenton at (941) 932-9400 Monday – Thursday 7:30 AM to 6:00 PM. Staff members are friendly and always willing to help.

BURGLARS AND SCAMMERS AND THIEVES (oh my)
The last category is the out-and-out criminal. Often, a burglar will “case” a neighborhood before striking. He wants to stake out the when, where and how of his next hit. The best way to spend some time casing homes in a neighborhood is to blend in. If he can throw a few Twinkies in a tub and go door to door claiming to be fundraising for a school or church, he has many opportunities to case the neighborhood. She can see who is gone for the day, and she can see into the homes of those who open their doors. He may even be invited to step inside while the resident gets their money (and see where they keep it). She may ask to use the restroom and steal items on the way to and from the bathroom, rummage through the medicine cabinet and leave the bathroom window open slightly so they can break in later. If they are unsuccessful at stealing from you, at least they got $8 for a Twinkie (or sold you some soap they made themselves or whatever item they think they can get you to pay for).

THE CUTE KIDS
Some of the “cute kids” claiming to be selling or collecting for school simply aren’t. Every year it seems we have at least one young person going door to door collecting for a local private school. The school principal has called us personally (furious by the way) to report that they do NOT send children door to door and someone is using their good name to steal money. Some criminals use kids to do their dirty work. Then, there are our local school children and scouts raising money by selling cookies, popcorn, candy, etc. Any of the schools or youth groups will tell you that they instruct the kids to NEVER go to strangers’ doors to sell. So it’s simple, really. If the child is a scammer or working for a criminal, that’s dangerous for YOU. If the child really is selling for their group, it’s dangerous for THEM. Either way it needs to be addressed.

How do you tell the difference between the categories? Do you ask the person to see their solicitation permit? (Hint: the City of Bradenton does not issue door-to-door permits. If they tell you they have one, they are lying… there is no such thing here!) How do you tell a criminal from an honest business person?

You don’t.

Don’t open the door! Yell “who’s there” so that they know someone is home and don’t try to go around back and break in. Just tell them “no thank you” through the door and immediately call the police.

Dial (941) 932-9300 and press 1 for English (2 for Spanish), and option 1 again to speak to an officer. Give the description of the salesperson, the address last seen, mode of travel and direction of travel.

Let the officer check out the person. We can check to see if they really are with a business and if they are operating legally. Anyone who does business in the City of Bradenton must be registered and pay the business tax (formerly, the occupational license). It is a violation of city ordinance to leave flyers or handbills on someone's property without their permission. We can direct them to the proper channels if need be or deal with them if they are committing a crime. If we manage to stop a crime before it occurs, we win! At the very least, we can find out who is casing our neighborhoods and let them know that our citizens are safety-conscious.

If you have any questions contact Bradenton Police Department, Crime Prevention Division at (941) 741-3041.

Be savvy – be safe.

Address/Location
BRADENTON POLICE DEPARTMENT
100 10th Street West
Bradenton, FL 34205

Contact
Emergency: 9-1-1
Non-emergencies: 941-932-9300

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