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Student magazine sales may be scam

May 10, 2009|Times Staff And Wire Reports

The Better Business Bureau has warned about an increase in fraud among door-to-door student magazine salespeople. The publication peddlers take orders, but the magazines never arrive. The students typically have a hard-luck story or say they are earning money for charity.

"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," spokesman Steve Cox said.

The bureau has received more than 1,000 complaints about fake magazine sales in the last year from 46 states, including California.

In some cases the students were also victims, the agency said. They were hired by companies to sell magazines door-to-door and then not given their promised commissions. Cox said the students were "forced to work long hours, endure substandard living conditions and have their wages withheld from them."

Here's a warning sign that you might be getting ripped off: You must be offered a cancellation form any time you spend $25 or more on products from a door-to-door salesperson, according to the Federal Trade Commission's cooling-off rule. Then you have three days to cancel.

If you're not offered a cancellation form, don't buy. Of course, if the salesperson were a fraudster, you probably wouldn't see a refund anyway. Perhaps the best way to make sure a sale is legitimate is to buy from students you know or to check with the school the student supposedly represents.

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