GPD warns: Magazine sales scammers in town, again

Published: Monday, August 26, 2013 at 4:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 26, 2013 at 4:22 p.m.

After receiving numerous reports from Gainesville residents last week of aggressive magazine salespeople, the Gainesville Police Department is warning the public about the return of a traveling sales group that, police say, usually leaves a trail of crime in its wake.

“Some of them do legitimately sell magazines, but previous encounters have proven that a majority of these people have large criminal histories and are out to take advantage of people in our community,” the Police Department said in an emailed statement.

“Last week, GPD officers stopped one of these salespeople who had previously served time in prison for theft, larceny and burglary,” GPD spokesman Officer Ben Tobias in a phone interview.

Tobias said the elderly are a prime target for the salespeople, who he said range from pushy to aggressive. Urging residents not to allow these people into their homes, Tobias explained, “in the past, they’ve asked to use the bathroom or phone and gone shopping in the house. Many elderly people have heirlooms in the family for years that turn up missing after one of these visits.”

GPD suggested these safety tips to help local residents handle a stranger who comes to their door:

-- The best prevention tip is to not even answer your door. If you aren’t expecting someone, tell that to the person through the closed door.

-- Consider putting a “No Soliciting” sign near your front door or at the entrance to your subdivision. There are city ordinances that will give GPD more enforcement options if a sign exists.

-- If you do choose to answer the door, do not open it wide or let them in. They may try tactics such as asking to use the restroom or phone. You don’t know this person, and these groups have a history of committing crimes such as burglaries and robberies. Don’t give them a head start.

-- Always have a phone with you if you choose to answer your door. You may need a way to call GPD.

-- If they do manage to stick their foot in the open door, or refuse to leave, call 911 immediately. Also scream or yell.

-- Make a big enough scene to attract attention to yourself and force them to leave.

-- If you see these people in your neighborhood, call the GPD non-emergency number at 955-1818. Be sure to get a good clothing description and note any tattoos or other unique identifying marks.

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