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Door-to-door scam hits Lake Orion


Police chief: first, make sure all solicitors have a permit



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December 16, 2009 - By Don Rush

This past summer Riva Campbell answered the knock on her door -- and got taken on a ride that lasted for months.

Door-to-door solicitors canvassed the area, including Cambell's Lake Orion Village neighborhood this past June.

"There was a girl and a guy, they were selling magazine subscriptions," Campbell said. "They were working on winning trip for spring break. They were young looking. The guy even wore a Lake Orion High School jacket."

Campbell paid $72 cash for two magazine subscriptions, called some neighbors over to help the "students;" everybody got their receipts and they waited.

And they waited . . . . and waited.

"Now that I think about it, it was farfetched -- but they were so convincing. They gave me a discount for paying cash. That should have been my first red flag," she said.

As the weeks turned to months, she started making phone calls. She called Lake Orion Schools to see if her sales person was a student -- nobody ever heard of him. She called the company named on her receipt, Florida's Sunshine Subscription Agency.

Armed with her receipt, the sellers name, she made contact and was told a number of things. "They said, 'unfortunately that person no longer works for us. They had had other complaints . . . and that he wasn't even of high school age, he was 28!"

Campbell was told she could get a full refund within four to six business days. After a full 10 days, and no refund, she called the company back. And they said it would be four to six weeks. "And this time the woman was really rude." Campbell added.

By the end of October and no refund, she was "really getting leery." She called the company again.

"I asked them, 'Do I need to get an attorney involved? I just want my money back.'" she said.

More calls were made and finally she connected with somebody in the company and, in November she received her refund.

She has since gone to the internet and looked up the Sunshine Subscription Agency. She found numerous reports of rip-offs and complaints. When she went the company's actual website, she saw the get-rich quick hooks everywhere -- pictures of sports cars, beautiful homes and tag lines like, "I can't believe I am making $50,000 a year!" and "Get rich with direct sales."

"I just wanted to let the community know this was going on," Campbell said, adding, her neighbors had not received their subscriptions, either.

According to Lake Orion Police Chief Jerry Narsh, there are strict rules that apply to door-to-door solicitation.

"The rules are strict by ordinance. Companies need a permit, they pay a bond and we do a thorough background investigation on each individual. I issue the permits, and since I have been here (as chief) I have not issued one door-to-door permit. I have been chief going on nine years," Narsh said.

Narsh said numerous business-to-business permits are regularly issued and that people with political campaigns or religious affiliations are allowed door-to-door permission (the latter two protected by the US Constitution).

He added there is a distinction between peddlers and solicitors (peddlers sell goods and want money now, solicitors can sell goods or services, you can pay now or later and get the goods or services later, too), but the rules apply to both.

Every solicitor needs a permit -- a document issued by the village and signed by the chief.

"Every person needs one. Every person who is going door-to-door needs to apply in person and we check each individual's background," he said, adding don't be fooled by somebody saying, "My manager has all the permits with him."

The chief said home owners have three rights.

"They have the right to ask for a permit and to see it. If they are not sure, they have the right -- at that moment -- to call the police department for verification. And, if you have a 'No Solicitors' sign on your door, even if they have a permit, they need to abide by your sign and not bother you."

Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: don@dontrushmedon.com
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