Knock, knock. Who’s there? Steve. Steve who?
Steve, some random guy who is traveling across the country with 10 other people, going door to door asking you to give him money or a check with your personal information and in return promising you that in six to eight weeks you will see your first copy of Fangoria or Quilter’s Digest while he’ll be in Gluk-Gluk, Arkansas, selling more subscriptions of Teen Beat and Moss Growing Quarterly.
Have you met Steve? Unfortunately, Steve seems to pop up in our town from time to time. Sometimes it’s magazine subscriptions to help a youth go to “Self Improvement” camp, or a chance to help Bo Bo win a trip to Fort Lauderdale during Spring Break to attend the “Daily Affirmations With Stuart Smalley” seminar. Yeah, right…
Last quarter I bought two subscriptions to magazines from a kid who was selling them door to door for a charity. The magazines never arrived and I can’t get a hold of the group who sold them to me. Did I get ripped off?
Ripped off? Well, I wouldn’t say, “ripped off.” I would say scammed, cheated, hosed, taken for a ride, busted out the ticket for the train ride to Suckerville, deceived, conned, bamboozled, swindled or duped. But not “ripped off.” Don’t be so harsh on yourself.
Seriously, though, every year the police department deals with scammers who do nothing but travel across the country, 15 to a van, targeting colleges. Stories of heartbreak seem to go hand in hand with overpriced bags of candy or magazine subscriptions marked up 300 percent. They make their living taking money and disappearing. Meanwhile it’s four to six weeks before you get suspicious and call the cops. By then their long gone with your cash, or, God forbid, a check with your bank account info on it.
Simple rule: Unless you know the group, like Girl Scouts or local schools, do not buy from door-to-door salespeople. If you do decide to get that subscription to Hair Braiders Weekly, ask to see the Santa Barbara County solicitation license. If they don’t have one, don’t buy. If you feel you must spend that money, call me and I will sell you a $25 bumper sticker that not only sticks, but sucks, too.
General Mobiqu HarDeHarHar from the Congo has been e-mailing me asking for help in getting his $50 million out of the country. It won’t cost me anything but a small processing fee, and he will give me 10 percent if I help. Should I?
Uh, yeah, go ahead. But before you do, I have this subscription to Imasucka magazine that I’ll sell you for a paltry $25,000. So, just give me the keys to your car and your ATM card and code. Don’t worry, I’ll be back in a few days.
Okay, so in addition to the rule about door-to-door salespeople, let’s include one about not trusting e-mails from disposed African dictators who heard at a recent P.T. Barnum cocktail party in Botswana that you were a guy that dictators could turn to for help.
Sure, if you look at it rationally, the whole idea is ridiculous. But you’d be surprised by how many people fall for the scams that arrive in the e-mail every day. I spoke to a student at the start of the school year that lost $5,000. That’s money that will never be seen again. The Secret Service investigates thousands of these scams every year. Sad to say, but unless you lost more than $20,000, your case probably won’t even be investigated.
Keep in mind that there are scummy people out there who do nothing but send out spam e-mails claiming to be eBay, Citizens Bank or another financial institution warning you that your account has been compromised. Just trash the e-mail. If you are concerned there’s a problem with your account, telephone the company. Do not use the e-mail links to go to the web pages. They may look real, but are usually forged web sites that do nothing but collect your account info so they can rip you off. If you are still worried that something’s not right, call the local police and ask them for help. That’s what we are here for. Well, that and the free samples at Costco.
Got caught by a cop? Your party popped by the popo? Ticked off by a ticket? If you have questions, don’t let it eat away at you, Question Authority! E-mail me anytime at: QA@police.ucsb.edu or call me at 893-3446.