PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - Summer is often the season where sales people end up at your front door.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland want to warn you about one specific group, they’re claiming solicit on their behalf.
“Every summer there are groups that come out to our communities, everywhere from Hillsboro up to Mississippi Avenue to down into Sellwood area,” said Amanda Meyer, Marketing and Communications Manager at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland.
Meyer said they caught wind of it happening this year when a young woman gave them a sales pitch in their office, saying she sold books and magazines to help build libraries. If people don’t want the books, she told them they then donate them to places like the Boys & Girls Club.
“Our CEO was no, that doesn’t happen,” said Meyer. “We don’t receive any sort of library out of this and we’re not benefiting from it.”
Optimum Readers Services is the company Meyer said these sellers work for.
“But really it’s just a traveling group of sales people that go from place to place,” said Meyer. “It makes me really sad to know there are community members who want to give back and who are donating money thinking it’s coming to benefit local kids, like kids in their community, but it’s not.”
Lindsey Mena said she’s one of those people.
“He said he was selling magazine subscriptions to benefit the Boys & Girls Club and so finally after about 15, 20 minutes of engaging with this man, he showed me kind of the options of what amount of payment I could make and how much reading materials would help the children," said Mena.
Mena said the man told her some of his life story, saying he was just trying to get back on his feet and make a better life for himself.
“I think I mentioned that I was a single mom and he said 'oh, I’m a single dad,'” said Mena. “I could kind of tell he was trying to reel me in to his story emotionally.”
She then wrote a check for $150.
“I thought it was going to be made out to the Boys & Girls Club and then he said 'oh no, make it out to this company Optimum Readers,' which I did and then he went on his way and I just had kind of a gut feeling that something was a little bit off with his story,” said Mena.
When she couldn’t find much online about the company, Mena canceled her check the next day.
“It’s unfortunate that people are preying upon people’s generosity and who knows where the money was actually going,” said Mena.
The FOX 12 Investigators reached out to Optimum Readers by calling a number on its site.
An office manager for the company first said the sellers just got to Portland and that’s why Boys & Girls Clubs haven’t received any magazines yet.
But when FOX 12 told him people have said they gave money to Optimum last year, the office manager then sent over documents showing a long list of Boys & Girls Clubs and dates of when they received magazines.
Most of the Boys & Girls Clubs on the list, however, had no addresses or names associated with them.
But one did read Blazers Boys & Girls Clubs, which is in Portland, and that it received Astronomy Magazine last year.
Meyer said she can’t recall if Blazers Boys & Girls Club was sent a copy of Astronomy Magazine a year ago.
But she said she is sure of one thing.
“It’s really harmful to our organization,” said Meyer.
Portland police have a generic warning on its site from the Oregon Department of Justice about door to door magazine sales crews.
It reads in part, “Frequently, magazine sellers tell consumers that they may purchase a subscription and donate it to a charity in lieu of receiving it themselves, or that the solicitor works for a charitable organization. ODJ believes this may be a fraudulent sales pitch and no benefit goes to charity.”
They also give the following tips on what to look out for:
- Be suspicious of receipts where the delivery name or address for the subscription is different than the address of the purchaser. Or, the subscription is to be delivered to a nonprofit, or is a "donation", sometimes to a vague charitable cause. Also be suspicious of receipts where the purchaser paid by "cash" which can be easily pocketed by the sales agents.
- If sales agents suggest that purchasers make a donation to a specific Oregon nonprofit (example: donate a subscription of a children's magazine to Doernbecher Children's Hospital), this is illegal without the prior written consent of the nonprofit (ORS 128.856). Doernbecher and other Oregon nonprofits generally have not given permission for such activities.
- Sales agents often try to convince purchasers that the sales agents are local students, on a local sports team, etc., to make the sale. Sales agents have been arrested by police agencies for theft by deception by lying to make a sale. Sometimes sales agents have been reported to use threatening behavior and intimidation tactics to make sales that consumers wouldn't otherwise make.
FOX 12 did reach out to DOJ. A spokesperson said they’ve received three complaints this year about Optimum Readers. They didn’t say if they were investigating them or not.
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