In the last 12 months alone, BBBs across the U.S. have received 1,100 complaints from consumers in 46 states and the District of Columbia against more than 50 companies that are selling magazines door-to-door.
Many of these companies employ crews of high school and college-age people who are trying to earn money over the summer.
These teams are sent to communities to knock on doors and sell magazines-sometimes without appropriate licensing.
In the sales pitch, representatives might explain they are working to help get their lives back on track, raising money on behalf of a charity or for a school trip or even selling subscriptions to support troops in Iraq.
"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 by personal check given directly to the sales reps," said Jim Hegarty, BBB president and CEO.
Most complaints against such companies allege that sales reps took their check and the magazines never arrived.
However, some complainants also allege being subjected to high-pressure and misleading sales tactics.
In one example, a woman called the police after feeling threatened by a sales rep that became angry when she wouldn't buy a magazine.
Some sales reps have also allegedly told prospective customers that they would not be able to eat that day if they didn't buy their magazines.
Some door-to-door magazine companies with F ratings from BBB include:
· Michigan City, IN-based Omni Horizons Inc., which has received 122 complaints from consumers in 17 states according to the BBB Serving Northern Indiana
· Chesapeake, VA-based True Visions Inc., which has received 82 complaints from 13 states according to the BBB of Greater Hampton Roads
· Charlotte, NC- based Trinity Public Relations which has received 286 complaints
· Seattle-based Fresh Start Opportunities, which has received 66 complaints from seven states according to the BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington
· Memphis-based Greater Image, Inc., which has received 71 complaints from 16 states according to the BBB serving the Mid-South
· Phoenix, AZ -based Prestige Sales, LLC which has received 33 complaints from 12 states according to BBB serving Central, Northern and Western, Arizona
"Experience tells us that customers aren't the only victims of this scam; the young sales people are also potentially being taken advantage of by their employers and forced to work long hours, endure substandard living conditions and have their wages withheld from them," said Hegarty.
BBB offers the following advice to avoid getting scammed by a door-to-door magazine sales rep:
· Always research the company with your Better Business Bureau for free at www.bbb.org before filling out a check for a magazine subscription
· The Federal Trade Commission's Three-Day Cooling-Off Rule gives the customer three days to cancel purchases over $25 that are made in their home or at a location that is not the seller's permanent place of business. Along with a receipt, salespeople should also include a completed cancellation form that customers can send to the company to cancel the agreement. By law, the company must give customers a refund within 10 days of receiving the cancellation notice
· Victims of fraudulent magazine sales can file a complaint with their Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org, local law enforcement, and state Attorney General offices