Door-to-door magazine salespeople are again on the prowl in St. Louis area neighborhoods, often hoodwinking consumers to buy subscriptions but seldom delivering the periodicals.
Sometimes the salespeople use stories of personal tragedy or claim to need money for college or a similar purpose to convince consumers to buy. The BBB is warning consumers not to be taken in by these spiels, which often are untrue.
BBB Investigator Bill Smith found striking similarities between recent complaints about a company called All Four One or All 4 One and companies that previously spawned complaints, such as Strickly Business 1 or Urban One. Today's release has details of the scam:
St. Louis, Mo., July 3, 2012 – A door-to-door magazine sales scheme that victimized several St. Louis area residents is the latest in a series of nearly identical scams that have duped hundreds of consumers across the nation, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.
The BBB urges consumers not to do business with All Four One, or All 4 One, which lists an address in Gary, Ind., but has used phone numbers in Indiana and in the St. Louis area. Its website and sales tactics are virtually identical to two other door-to-door operations that have been taking money in recent months for books and magazine subscriptions that were never received.
In many of the BBB complaints, consumers say the salespeople who came to their
homes used personal stories of struggle and tragedy to make plays for sympathy
and get the consumers to order magazines.
All Four One has an “F” grade with the BBB, the lowest grade possible. Despite claiming an Indiana address, All Four One does not appear to be registered in
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said that the printed material used on the
website of All Four One – www.all4oneinc.net – is an almost exact copy of the material used on the websites for two other notorious door-to-door magazine businesses, Strickly Business 1 of Missouri City, Tex., and Urban One, or Urban1, which lists a St. Louis address. Combined, Strickly Business 1 and Urban One have logged more than 300 complaints with the BBB since early 2011.
Corey said there is growing evidence that the phony companies are part of an extensive, organized network of thieves. “These so-called businesses have schemed and scammed their way into hundreds of homes, using lies and deception to steal consumers’ money,” she said. “It’s time for people to stand up and say ‘no more.’”
The BBB has closed more than 50 complaints against All Four One in recent months. The All Four One website lists Alan Mullins as a company contact, with a northwest Indiana phone number. Calls to that number were not returned.
Several consumers said they also had been given a St. Louis area phone number and had used it last fall to speak to a man who identified himself as Eric Thompson. Thompson was described as a manager or vice president of All Four One.
That phone number most recently has been used by a Florissant, Mo., man who is wanted by St. Louis County authorities on allegations that he violated terms of his probation in connection with a 2005 theft conviction. Contacted by the BBB last week, the man said he had had the phone number for only a month and knew nothing about All Four One or any other magazine sales company. He declined a request to meet with the BBB to discuss the matter.
In August, the BBB issued a news alert on Urban One, saying it was not delivering subscriptions. At that time, a man who identified himself as Tim Moore said he would begin answering complaints. He has not done so. The BBB noted that the Hazel Crest, Ill., address used to register Urban One’s website was the same address used by yet another magazine sales business, Midwest Clearing Inc. of Hazel Crest, Ill., which has logged more than 400 complaints.
BBB complaints involving All Four One have come from 12 mostly Midwestern states. Losses range from $39 to $591. Fourteen complaints are from Ohio, 10 from Missouri, seven from Indiana and five from Illinois. Most of the Missouri complaints are from the St. Louis area.
A man from St. Charles, Mo., said he bought subscriptions from two young women who came to his home last August, claiming to represent All Four One. He said magazines ordered from one of the women ultimately were delivered, but the other subscriptions – for which he paid $184 – have never arrived. He said the women told him they were selling the subscriptions to help pay for education and to improve their lives.
“It was against my better judgment, but I bought the magazines anyway,” he said.
A woman from University City, Mo., said she stopped payment on a $72 check to All Four One after having second thoughts. She described the salesman as “disarming in his friendliness.” The man initially convinced her that he was using the job to escape a difficult past.
An Indianapolis woman said she lost $101 to All Four One after agreeing to purchase a cookbook and a magazine subscription. She said she spoke by phone with a man who identified himself as Eric Thompson at the St. Louis area phone number. He promised to look into the matter, she said, but she never received her order.
Two other St. Charles County consumers said they lost $63 and $119 respectively for orders they placed but never received.
The BBB offers the following advice for persons approached by door-to-door
- Check for a BBB Business Review by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
- Remember that you are under no obligation to interact with a salesperson who comes to your home.
If you feel at all threatened, contact police immediately.
- Do not invite a stranger into your home unless you have made prior arrangements to meet with him or her.
- Many communities require a special soliciting permit for companies selling door-to-door. Before buying anything, ask to see a copy of a permit, as well as any personal identification. Take down that information in the event there is a problem later.
- Do not be taken in by sad stories, pleas to help a student or organization or by solicitors claiming they are raising money for charities, unless you know the claims are true.
- If you do decide to buy, pay with a credit card in case you need to challenge the purchase later.
About the BBB
The BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews on more than 4 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information.