Scam Artists Back; Currently Working Orinda

Fast-talking scam artists are spinning their yarns on doorsteps in Lamorinda. Don't fall for it.


We've written about these guys more often than we can remember but they keep coming back and people keep falling for their patter -- which may explain why they keep coming back.

The following is from "Sandy," a Patcher whose last name we're holding back for her security:

"I live in Orinda and just turned away a lady who rang my doorbell.  She claimed to be a student from UC Berkeley, practicing her public speaking skills and gathering points and money for a trip to San Diego.  She showed me a pass (or rather, a piece of paper in a plastic holder) that is supposedly a UC Berkeley student pass (it wasn't).  She had cigarette breath and cigarette-stained teeth and a nose-pin.  She claimed that many of my neighbors have signed up for books from her already, and all except for 1 family chose to pay for the books but have the books sent to Children's Hospital directly instead of getting it at their home.  I told her that we are already involved with other charities  and politely turned her away."

Sandy was wise to do so. Groups of these folks are currently working Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill and they cruise through Lamorinda from time to time, usually brought to the area by groups who feed them a bogus story to repeat to unsuspecting homeowners.

We've heard a million different variations of the con, but there's always the same "hook."

"We have driven by your home a million times but keep wondering who lives here," or the time-honored "we just live up the street, you know us, my mom walks the Golden Labrador up your street every morning."

If you are brave enough to have some fun with these people and you want to see an interesting shade of pale, play along with the game and say: "Yes? How is your mom? You know, I haven't seen her in a while... Let's go see her now!"

This, of course, is not recommended.

These people don't like to have their stories challenged and, of course, they're here to build an instant familiarization and get your money.

Don't do it. Thanks, Sandy.

Amy Chu March 06, 2012 at 04:31 PM
They came by our house yesterday. The plastic id tag sandy mentioned was peeled back, as if they had just inserted a new picture. We had a different "salesman" but it was the same pitch. People actually fall for it??
El Cucuy March 06, 2012 at 04:41 PM
The other annoying thing about these huxters is their dual role. If someone's home, run their con. If nobody's home, go back to their den of thieves and let them know which homes to target.
JMR March 06, 2012 at 04:58 PM
You know what would be nice? If the city of lafayette, who has an ordinance requiring solicitors to wear ids, could find a way to let us know what they look like so we know if theyre true. Although the down side to this is then they would easily be copied. Oh well. Cant win. Common sense must fight on.
natalie johns March 06, 2012 at 05:15 PM
RIP Mrs. Vuori. Why aren't these people prosecuted? http://lamorinda.patch.com/articles/bogus-door-to-door-sales-guys-revisit-lamorinda
Sara March 06, 2012 at 07:23 PM
I just don't open the door to them any more.
White Rabbit March 06, 2012 at 10:32 PM
I had a young man come by once. He told me he lived up the street, and just sold some magazines to my neighbor. When I challenged him, he got nasty -- I backed off and quickly said my goodbyes and locked the door. He didn't look like your typical Miramonte kid. Be careful.
J.D. O'Connor (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 10:39 PM
We have had the same experience, Rabbit, and advise residents who are home alone to take all necessary precautions when one of these people comes calling. It may be fun to break down their stories but we, too, have seen them get angry when you do it.
RidinLow March 06, 2012 at 11:51 PM
I am a Benicia Patcher, I do spend time in Lafayette as often as possible to run the rim trail at the Rez, and shop the fine stores. I have also encountered these scammers at the gas station, Safeway parking lot, and what I want to point out to everyone. They come in Vans, usually white with darkened windows, someone drops them off at a certain area and then comes back. Watch for the vans, maybe someone can get a lic plate #....I always use the line when they try to approach me, Already contributed and just keep walking, if they come to my house I tell them I know about your scam and don't waste your time, and get lost ...works for me
J.D. O'Connor (Editor) March 07, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Hey, Ridin, and welcome. Say hi to my pal JB up your way. You are correct about these groups and their methods. I once talked about it with a police officer who said he was at a police convention at a hotel locally when they heard a ruckus from an adjoining room and it was one of these groups, pumping up their "sales people." They were driven to target neighborhoods in the vans you mention, and we have seen them in our neighborhood. They do not like to be challenged, we have found. Thanks for checking in.
Dr Green March 07, 2012 at 06:16 AM
I must admit I've purchased magazines from these salespeople numerous times without problem. Although it always takes forever to get the first issue. And when I've said no, they have brought more pressure but end up leaving with no harm done. I end up getting what I pay for each time, so I'm not sure how that is "falling for" anything as the article intimates. The folks do make me feel somewhat uncomfortable, but sometimes its good to get out of your comfort zone. For all the times I have encountered these bussed in salespeople I have never been taken advantage of. I think its unfair to lump them all together.
AB March 07, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Same thing happened to me! I turned her away. She looked VERY suspicious. I never buy/sign anything from door to door folks. I can't stand them! Very annoying!
Tim Davis March 07, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Maybe those who don't mind getting pitches of this type can post a sign or some other indicator at their door so sales people will know they are welcome at that particular home. I don't think it's a good idea to send van loads of people into neighborhoods armed with bogus stories to extort money for magazine subscriptions you can get online and it is obvious that not all of these people are reputable. I have had more than one altercation and would not want them at my door but if some people feel differently, hang up a SOLICITORS WELCOME sign. Maybe that would cut down the number of complaints.
Miles VanBuren March 07, 2012 at 03:24 PM
As soon as they knock on my door I run to my refrigerator and grab whatever fruit I have in the bin and then when I open my door I say please take this fruit and hand them the (apple) and without saying another word I close and lock my door. That leaves them in shock to try and figure out what the heck just happened and after a few seconds their brain realizes I am not coming back to the door and I see them just walking away shaking their head {sometimes smiling} and eating the apple. Works every time.
Lissa Sorensen March 07, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Pretty creative and non confrontational. I was pleased to see that the police had intervened with this latest group. It is apparent to me at least that these sales people can have sketchy backgrounds and having them on my doorstep for any length of time doesn't exactly make me feel safe. I'm glad the police took action.
Ann March 07, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Many of the young people who do this type of selling are in a sense trapped by unscrupulous bosses who hold them hostage for so much money that they can never sell enough. Most of them have been in trouble with the law, have substance abuse problems, or are runaways. There have been instances in Orinda where check fraud has resulted from trusting customers who made a purchase using a personal check. I usually do not answer the door, or in the case of one hot summer when several groups seemed to be targeting my neighborhood, I gave them bottles of water and then called the OPD. They responded pretty quickly and took the young men away.
Lissa Sorensen March 07, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Ann is correct. The amazing thing IMHO is that with so many people knowing about this thanks to this site and others that people are still giving them money???
Eastofthehills March 07, 2012 at 06:40 PM
The only door to door thing I buy are girl scout cookies. I remember some of these people coming by last year in our neighborhood; it was kind of a different scam though. They offer to give me "free" monitoring services or something similar so they can "advertise" in my neighborhood. I just say tell them not interested or because I look young I tell them I have to ask my parents.
DC / Lafayette March 07, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Dr. Green, You are fortunate. I (years ago) fell more than once for this scam...First I ordered magazines. I never ever received any of the 3 subscriptions. When I tried to call the phone numbers on the receipt that I saved, the numbers were not good. The second time (yes, I'm a little slow on the uptick), I ordered books for my children, complete with name engraving on the binding. I received one of the three books ordered, horrible quality, no engraving (surprise surprise). I have a friend who had one of these charactors come to her door when the college aged babysitter was at home with her children. He requested a glass of water, then refused to leave the home. Now when they knock, our neighborhood knows to call each other immediately to inform each other that they are baaaaack!
BB March 07, 2012 at 10:11 PM
I was curious about this so I did a search on Google - found an enlightening press article in the Houston Press. Looks like much of the concern is warranted - http://www.houstonpress.com/2008-07-17/news/what-mainstream-publishers-don-t-want-you-to-know-about-door-to-door-magazine-sales/
Zoe Claire March 08, 2012 at 12:02 AM
My god.
Sandy March 08, 2012 at 12:09 AM
I had no idea, but send these people away whenever I'm distracted enough to open the door to them. Thanks Patch!
Sylvia March 13, 2012 at 01:13 AM
Just had an encounter with a pair of "youts" who fit this description, casing Fernwood Dr. in Moraga. They are looking a bit too closely at the homes through windows for my taste. Suggested our PD check them out. About 22, on foot, caucasian, one shortish, with brown hair and taller blond guy.
TMoraga March 13, 2012 at 01:30 AM
I've seen Moraga PD stop and ask them to leave town a few times now. They need permits to do door to door solicitations giving the PD the leverage they need to ask them to leave. I try not to open the door when they do come but some times I do and it helps to have a large dog sitting shot gun on your side. They back off and step off the porch and seem to tone down their pitch a bit. There isn't a single door to door solicitation anyone should ever be buying from today other than your neighbors kid selling Girl Scout cookies!! The people who purchase magazines or books from these door to door people are FOOLS learn how to shop on AMAZON for christ sakes!!!! Geeze
Kitty March 13, 2012 at 05:15 AM
Just had them come by today in Fernwood area. I normally would not have answered the door, but my daughter was getting picked up at the same time so I went to the door expecting it to be friends. I asked them if they had a permit and they said they've had no problem selling for 5 weeks. Then they got out their raggedy magazine thing and I said I wasn't interested. "Thanks for being so neighborly!" was their sarcastic reply. About 1/2 hour later, they were sitting on the next court over, waiting to be picked up. I went on to the police website and contemplated calling, but honestly did not want to use the emergency line. Is there another option? Anyway, I told myself that if they were still sitting out there, I would call, but they weren't so I dropped it. Interesting that I just saw this article!
TMoraga March 13, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Just a quick note don't confuse the Dispatch number with 911. Dispatch is essentially the communication hub for all the police officers on duty. If a family member needs to contact Dad and he's working - its dispatch who they call and then Dispatch tells Dad to call home... Same goes for things like this you can call and say hey a large group of non-magazine sales people are gathering up and clearly waiting for their ride and they have been pretty rude to home owners - they are located at X etc. Dispatch simply passes on the news to the officers working and they may decide its worth swinging by and seeing what sort of trouble these folks are up to etc. Without that the officers may never even know the non-magazine sales folks were in town till after they hear people complaining about them days later.
TMoraga March 13, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Orinda 24hr police dispatch office number is non emergency 24 Hour Police Dispatch (925) 284-5010 put it in your cell phone phone book. Website is http://www.ci.orinda.ca.us/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={B7C9FC74-5440-4274-BA91-7B9206C8411F} Lafayette is http://www.lafayette.in.gov/police/ non emergency number is Non-Emergency: 24 Hour Dispatch: (925)284-5010 Moraga PD is http://police.moraga.ca.us/ Non emergency number is Dispatch: (925) 284-5010


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