I was recently asked about people selling products door-to-door. It’s one thing if it’s a local group from the area’s schools or local organizations, but buyer beware! There are actual organizations that do nothing but caravan people across the country just to blanket an area. Some are honest and you get what you order, but many are not and they disappear with your money faster than a bowl of bananas at a gorilla convention.

I ordered some magazines from someone who was selling them door-to-door in my hall. The magazines never came. What can I do to get my money back?

Sorry to say it, but you will probably never get your money back. Every year the police department gets calls of magazine solicitors cruising the residence halls – and Isla Vista also – selling various subscriptions or over-priced candy. They’ll say it’s for leadership awards or a favorite charity or to support the local high school sports team. In reality, they are trying to make a quick buck by preying on the generosity of the college community.

Every time I have contacted these solicitors, they are from Los Angeles or even out of state. They are bussed up here in large groups to sell as much as possible and then move on to another location. Sometimes you get your subscriptions, sometimes you don’t. Either way, they are long gone with your money. No reputable charity organization would ever use groups like this as a means to make money. (OK, so before I get the complaints, Girl Scout cookies are sold by local kids. Not the same thing I’m talking about here.)

So how do you know if that guy at your door is legitimate?

First of all I recommend if you’re interested in supporting the local charity give directly to them. That way they get 100 percent of your donation instead of the pennies on the dollar these groups might give them. Second, ask to see their Santa Barbara County business license. You cannot solicit door-to-door sales without one and it must be on them, not “with the boss” or “on file.” Also UCSB prohibits door-to-door solicitors on campus property.

If you still choose to buy from a door-to-door solicitor, demand a clearly legible receipt with the name of the company and contact information. Be very clear of what you are going to get and how much it’s going to cost.

You should also be aware of who you are giving your personal information to. This is an easy way for a crook to get enough info about you to steal your identity and rip you off for more than just a magazine or candy bar. Think about it. Would you walk up to some random person in the city and just give them your name, address, driver license and bank information? No? So if a random person came to your door why would you do it?

If you are not sure about someone trying to sell you something, call the police and have us check it out. A legitimate salesperson would have no problem with the cops asking them questions.

Ticked off by a ticket? Party popped by the Patrol? If you’ve got questions, don’t let them eat away at you. E-mail UCPD Crime Prevention Officer Mark Signa at msigna@police.ucsb.edu or call him at 893-4063.