Beware: More Possible Scammers Going Door to Door

Some of these incidents have to be legitimate, no?  These scammers are really going to make it difficult when a proper solicitation occurs…  So how do you separate legitimate requests from scams?

Dear PoP,
Yesterday afternoon a woman knocked on my door.  She did not identify herself or her address but pointed vaguely saying she lived 5 houses down.  She said a relative of someone in the neighborhood was diagnosed with diabetes and she showed me a dog-eared high school photo of a teenager.  She said she was collecting for a fund for him.  I politely said I was not going to contribute.

I called 311 and told dispatch about it and asked that they drive down the street to let the woman know that her ruse made me think she was casing the area for future mayhem.  I do not know if they did.

34 Comment

  • After she left, I came to my senses and from now on will ask the person’s address and NAME. If she really is a close neighbor, that could be verified with a knock on the door of the given address. If legit, I would contribute not with cash but something like packaged food or toiletries or the actual fund she spoke of.

  • I had a similar incident a couple years ago, woman knocking on the door, at night, claiming to be a neighbor and needing… can’t remember now, it was either money for a sick child or a ride to a CVS to get medicine for said sick child… I do remember she wanted to be let in as we talked, ‘cold out here’…

    The other day a guy came to the door saying he had leftover seafood from some deliveries in the area and did we want to buy some. For a scam, that’s a pretty rank-sounding premise. ‘Get yer leftover seafood here!!’ I saw him work his way down the block. I did call 311, not sure if they checked him out.

  • Since when is selling seafood door to door a scam?
    I’ve had guys come buy and show me a cooler full or frozen meat and fish, “just a little extra, the boss don’t know about it,” to sell at a discount. Granted, I didn’t buy any but the food was all frozen solid and in a cooler with dry ice. Not terribly rank at all.

  • If the plea for diabetes-related funds happened in the ParkView neighborhood, it could be legit. A neighbor of IntangibleHouse (who we know and see regularly) has resorted to this in the past, and again just a couple of days ago. If it’s the same folks, they’re good people. No great conspiracy there.

    And I’m about as skeptical as you can get about these things. But I figure, if it sounds dishonest, politely decline and get on with life. No need to be affronted or call in a heavily-armed terror-squad with tear-gas bombs and kill-trained dogs thirsty for the taste of the blood of harmless people. As neighborhood “crimes” go, that’s got to be beneath the bottom of the list.

  • A scam similar to the “extra” meat and seafood is the two young guys, usually in an unmarked van, selling stereo speakers. They always claim that their boss will be angry if they bring them back to the warehouse because they were supposed to go to some client that didn’t take them. If you let them, they will take one of these gigantic speakers out of one of the boxes on the truck to show you.
    Once, I was stopped on Wisconsin Ave near the 2nd District police station with a friend who is an officer. My friend asked to look in one of the other unopened boxes and the guy balked. My friend showed his badge, called for a uniformed officer on his cell. When another box was opened it contained a lot of styrofoam and 2 cinderblocks.
    What’s funny about this is that it’s still going on. I was just approached by another 2 guys in a van while I was loading equipment into my car in front of my job in Wheaton on Saturday.
    Who are these guys?

  • Man. You folks are sure some police-calling mo-fo’s! “Help, someone talked to me!” What say we get the “salesmen” (and their guns) out of the alleys before we worry the po-po with day-old shellfish, m’kay?

  • I think everyone is entitled to call 311 on these scam artists. Why should ignore smaller crimes to happen just because bigger crimes are occurring? Every little bit helps.

  • I think everyone is entitled to call 311 on these scam artists. Why should we ignore smaller crimes that are happening just because bigger crimes are occurring? Every little bit helps.

  • How long have you lived on your block that you don’t recognize your neighbor from 5 houses down? For shame.

  • Funny thinng about the Stereo Speaker scam. I was driving up to Chicago (late 1980s) with a freind to go to college. We must have looked green, because we were stopped by the same kind of van with the same story about extra speakers, etc. we bought the boxed speakers, got them home and when we opened the box, there were two large speakers. I hooked them up and they worked. they kept working for 20 years until I finally had to replace them this year. I’m not saying this isn’t normally a scam – who knows, maybe they gave us the ones they normally show people and they got stuck with the boxed cinder blocks! Ha Ha!

  • Do as you like, Oden and lazy cake. I called 311 to have ‘seafood’ guy checked out when I saw him knocking on my elderly neighbor’s door. He was a fairly tough, shifty looking dude (and no, there was no truck or cooler or anything in sight) so I stand by the call. My neighbor is no-nonsense but she’s getting up there. If he was a scammer or worse she’d be the kind of target he’s looking for.

    To be clear, I do know just about everyone on my block and did not recognize the medicine woman claiming to be my neighbor. How ’bout we not chastise people for trusting their instincts? ‘Let’s clean up the drug dealers before dealing with any other issues’ isn’t my mantra, sorry.

  • perhaps a good way to deal with this situation would be to introduce yourself and act neighborly… say “oh hello! which house number is yours? nice to meet a neighbor! I’m not interested in donating anything now, but nice to meet you!” do we have to assume the worst?

  • other sara – it’s a common scam. I cannot count how many times people have tried to run it on us. Add in that I know all everyone on my block, and NONE of these scammers can come up with a name or address for their “mama who lives just a few house houses down,” and no longer have any patience for these people.


  • Bill – The same guy selling “fish” knocked on my door! My girls were screaming and tired as it was the 5 o’clock witching hour. At first, I thought he was asking me for fish. I said, “does it look like I have some fish on me?” Then he repeated that he was selling fish. I said, “from where? Your pockets?” There was no truck/cooler/etc… He actually mumbled sorry and left. I too called 311 – my entire block (except for 2 houses) are older retired people who are often targets for con artists.

  • I promise, the guy took out a cooler from the bed of his pickup truck and proceed to lay out well over $200 worth of seafood (salmon steaks, lobster tail, crab cakes, etc.). It’s NOT a scam. He has a product that he’s selling. Much like the way many of us make our own livings. He just happens to do it door to door which is certainly not illegal or immoral.

    Please, let the man try to make a dollar the honest way.

  • I’m telling you there was no truck parked on the street and he did not have a cooler. I have no problem with people trying to make a living the honest way, or kids trying to raise money for their school. I always open the door and try to hear them out….BUT this was too much even for me!

  • And why are you so sure he legally acquired this meat? And if it kills me, who do my heirs go to for recourse? No, move on with your random seafood.

  • I have my buildings call box linked to my phone at work since it will only take local numbers and my cell is out of state. I will randomly get calls from people at the front door during the day saying they are FedEx or someone else. If I am expecting a package, then I’m more likely to let them in to leave it, but recently, I received a call saying that they were the MPD. They were very aggressive on the phone and said just to let them in. I realize I probably have no legal obligation to let them in, but what if someone had called for them or there was an emergency? Does anyone have any reasonable way of dealing with this?

  • Sean- I would assume(hope) that real police/fire/emt’s have a way to get in- master keys or something? I doubt their method of getting into secure buildings is to call everyone and hope someone is home.

    Any pro’s out there know?

  • You have every right to say that you don’t want his seafood. That’s your right as the customer, to pick and choose where you do your business. All I’m advocating is NOT calling the police to report a man who is selling a good, just like any other business man. And maybe the particular guy who came to your door (AmyC) wasn’t on the up and up. Then you should have told him to get lost. I”m just pointing out that people selling fish are not inherently bad people and shouldn’t have the cops called on them like a drug dealer.
    And as far as the legality of the seafood being sold door to door, I would say that its unfair to assume that door to door salesmen always steal their products. It’s not like he opened up his coat to reveal a dozen Rolex watches for sale. Consumer goods, like fish and other food stuffs, are frequently sold in bulk at discount and I don’t see why an enterprising individual wouldn’t try to make an honest dollar reselling food.

  • I would also like to point out that the seafood I was offered was frozen, sealed in plastic, and packaged for sale in a retail setting….not just chunks of salmon floating in an icy cooler. Obviously, in that case I would laugh at the person and decline said seafood.

  • This is hilarious that you people would call the cops on this guy. Good thing the Fuller Brush Co. no longer sells door-to-door cause you folks would call out the SWAT team.

    “HELP, HELP! Someone is trying to sell me something!”

  • Oden – don’t you think we can tell a scammer selling hot stuff from the regular annoying door to door salescritter? I can. And I’ll call the cops on a scammer, and just tell the salescritter “No thanks,” and shut the door.

  • saf: Lazy Cake has just pointed out that this guy was seemingly legit (if odd in his choice of sales). I’m willing to bet the scaredy cats are wrong and Lazy is right. A scam would be more like someone asking “do you want to contribute your cold hard cash to Oden’s Home for Wayward Cheerleaders?”[*], not someone trying to sell you some frozen crab claws.

    [*] I am the only authorized collection agent for Oden’s Home for Wayward Cheerleaders, except no substitutes.

  • Have to admit, we have not had the seafood salesman. What we get a lot of are JWs, “Help me WIN by buying a magazine,” and, “My mama lives down the block but she’s not home and I need money to get milk for the baby/my prescription/cab fare home.”

    That said, I would bet the seafood was hot.

  • I used to sell frozen steak and seafood door-to-door. Actually had 12 warehouses in 5 states. Ran 75 to 100 trucks. Choice beef and quality seafood. I fired guys for lying to sell product. It was good, honest work.

  • Newsflash: selling food, especially seafood, is a regulated activity. You don’t just wander around selling seafood door to door, any more than you would wander around selling medicine. If you’re going to sell food in the District, esp. a food product that has a bunch of perfectly reasonable handling requirements like seafood, you have to have a permit. You probably have to be certified in food handling as well. The regs have existed for decades upon decades, because hello seafood that’s contaminated or mishandled can make a person very ill at the least, and kill them in the worst scenario (esp. children, the elderly, and people with existing illness).

    So, no, you aren’t allowed to wander around selling seafood without the proper permits and certifications. Doing so is…drum roll please…illegal, period, end of sentence. If seafood man is a well-intentioned guy just trying to make a buck, that’s fine, but rules exist to protect the general health and welfare, and he has to abide by them just like anyone else. And if he isn’t, or can’t, so sad too bad the rules exist in this instance for very good reasons.

  • You would think that selling food to your fellow man is some kind of outrage – in America, the country that is built on the free market! Too many smug elitist bureaucrat/NPR types in this World. It’s just food – and they want you to but more when you’ve eaten it.

  • I Googled “door-to-door meat scams” after a salesman came to my door today. I’ve worked in telemarketing for a blessedly short time, so I always hear people out. The guy was driving a refrigerated truck with a meat company’s logo on the side, and the meats were packaged professionally. I wouldn’t have bought for myself because I’m a vegetarian, but I was thinking I’d get some for my mother. The prices were so high, though; he wanted $400 for one case and said he’d throw in a case of chicken for free. Then again, it’s probably no worse a price than Omaha Steaks.

    He did use the classic excuse that it was “left over” from unclaimed shipments, which is on all the warning sites I’ve seen. How do I know the meat isn’t outdated (even if it’s still frozen)? And he probably would have tried to get me to sign up for more meat if I’d taken the bait. I’m sure there are legitimate fish/meat salespeople out there, but if they’re using the “unclaimed shipment” excuse, there’s probably something wrong with the food. I didn’t buy because I can’t spend that kind of money on meat . . . but I think I dodged a bullet.

  • Go ahead and buy seafood from an unknown source at your door.

    Enjoy the E.R.

  • I can’t think of something I’d want to buy less than surprise door-to-door meat (see “food is regulated for a reason”, above). I can’t be alone in this. That makes it a bad product. That means anyone who sets out with this seriously damaged plan has probably got more than a bad business model going on. Something’s not right.

  • Have you people never heard of Schwann’s. How do you think he got started. A truck, a freezer, and a lot of ice cream. Regardless of the looks of the salesmen , if it is frozen,packaged, and marked by the USDA then odds are it is a legit operation that is licensed and regulated. Get the company name from said individuals, and check with the BBB, Dun and Bradstreet, Etc. Quit being such sissy scardy cats. Just because the man running the business cant afford (10 – 20) $60,000 dollar refrigerated trucks yet does not make him a scammer. Anyone of us can contact a wholesaler, get a business licence (or whatever is required by your local municipality), throw some dry ice in a cooler and sell frozen prepackaged,usda grade meat. Why put down, degrade, or call someone a criminal because they want to be the man instead of work for him. I am so tired of this sissy-fied frickin culture we live in. If you dont get your hands dirty you cant develop a strong immune system. And in the wild the weak die because they are supposed to.

  • If you don’t trust the food don’t buy it. All of this calling the cops is just nonsense. Did none of you every go door to door to cut grass, do odd jobs, or sell girl scout cookies when you were a kid. For God’s sake, America is all about free enterprise. I’m sorry to rant and rave, but it just pisses me off. I’ve sold all kinds of things door to door and business to business, and let me tell you most of us really good sales men drive beaters (pos) what ever you want to call it because we are on the road all day long and it is a stupid move to buy fancy new expensive cars when you are going to put 60,000+ miles a year on it. Oh and by the way me and my piece of shit car, pull down six-figures every year and when I retire, which will be at the age of 40, then you will see me in the Armani suits driving the Cadillacs and Porsches when I’m not laying on the beach in the Carribean. So go on being scared, and feeding the Wal-Mart’s and other Superstores so their CEOs can continue to screw up the economy. In the mean time I’m going to continue grab life by the balls, sell something to your neighbor and enjoy my financial security.

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