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Got nailed today by a very elegant and detailed scam. Two young people, of each gender, from Ultimate Unity Inc. came to the door (which says "No Solicitors" and said, "I'm not selling you anything, this isn't a charity, and it's not about religion." I laughed and said, "What else is there?" The man then launched into a very detailed and interesting description of a program to give young urban people business skills, in which he earned points merely by talking to me, and recording that we had the conversation. He asked questions about how I had worked and what advice I would give young people. Only then did he bring out a clipboard to rate him, and finally a pitch to buy magazines at a reasonable subscription rate, if not for oneself, for a charity or relative. I bought three years of what he described as a children's magazine appropriate for someone 5-1/2, for my grandson. They then added a $15 fee for processing and handling, which is a lot, but which they said paid them a little bit. Okay.
Only after going out to dinner did it occur to me that all door-to-door magazine sales are scams, and so I Googled up Ultimate Unity, which turns out to have dozens of names, all using the same numbers and address, hundreds of complaints logged by the Northern Indian Better Business Bureau. Also many individual testimonies of variations in many states.
The receipt has a cancellation offer of three business days, I used some of the emails from the websites, all of which bounce. I forwarded the facts to the BBB of Indiana, the national consumers league (whose emails bounce also!) and the AGs of Massachusetts and Indiana (neither of which have a direct email for consumer protection).
I will now, because I am not good with check numbers, stop the check and another to the Smithsonian, for which I will send a new one and apology to them. I will thus spend $60 to deprive these guys of $63 and salvage a little pride.
This will only work because they hit me on a Sunday and can't clear the check until tomorrow a.m. (they usually deposit the checks on the double and clear out of town quickly, per the Internet).
Nevertheless, I would like to devise a way to email and tweet them out of Boston before they use my name and comments and to con others.
Obviously the uncertain identities of the Internet make this difficult to do (which is one reason the AG's consumer departments don't take direct email), but here in JP people know who I am and what I write like, so maybe someone knows a good strategy, or will get a better ID on this team like a cell phone picture or follow them back to their car and get the license plate.
I regret to state that they were both African American, as are all the sales leaders on the websites of the various companies. They may well believe the story they told me, that I will get the magazines. They certainly made clear it was not a charity. The fraud consists, according to many, many Internet accounts, of not sending the magazines, ignoring the cancelations, and being unreachable on customer service, as well as, in this case, selling me the wrong magazine.
I sent this around to my immediate neighbors, and possibly two of them were taken by a similar routine a couple years ago. So this one never dies, until we kill it.