Magazine scam targets students on campus

Jacob Nahin

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Photo Illustration by Hannah Pedraza/ Photo Editor

On January 27, campus police observed an individual, who went by the name of Chris, outside the Sierra Center attempting to sell a student fraudulent magazine subscriptions claiming the proceeds would benefit a charity called the Children’s Hospital in Haiti, said Detective Sgt. Mark Benavidez, from the CSUN Department of Police Services (DPS).
When officers attempted to arrest the individual, the suspect fled.

This is the latest in a string of magazine-subscription related scams on campus, Benavidez said.

Almost two weeks ago, campus police cited a man for allegedly operating a fraudulent business without a license or tax certificate states a DPS report.

Sean Taylor Richards, 23, was cited by police at the University Student Union (USU) for selling potentially fraudulent magazine subscriptions on behalf of the Worldwide Subscriptions Company, the report indicated.

According to the police report, Richards was not a CSUN student.

Christina Villalobos, the public information officer for the DPS, said Richards is only one of several suspects involved in the scam, which can be traced back to the beginning of December 2009. Villalobos attributes the success of the citation to the vigilance of a CSUN employee who reported Richard’s suspicious activity.

“Officers can’t be everywhere on campus at all times,” Villalobos said.

As many as five suspects have gone person to person, and sometimes door to door, soliciting magazine subscriptions, Villalobos said. According to a recent campus crime alert, victims complete the transaction only to discover that the subscriptions and the solicitor’s promises are fake.

One campus crime report, on January 19, states that a student in the University Park Apartments (UPA) answered the door after hearing a knock where two males identifying themselves as workers for Worldwide Subscriptions Company. After purchasing the subscriptions the student looked up the company only to find out it doesn’t exist.

Villalobos said some scamartists get away with it because they blend in with students.

“These individuals tend to look like students,” she said. “It’s easy to blend in, to strike up a conversation with someone.”

Benavidez said the subscriptions range from $10 to $20. So far, no more than 20 students have fallen victim to the scam. Still, that number could be higher, Benavidez said, because some students never file a report.

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Web site, the Worldwide Subscriptions Company is based out of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and runs under the alternate name, Trian Inc. On campus, solicitors related to the scam have also been reported as representing University Sales, Inc.

At the time of publication, the Worldwide Subscriptions Company was not licensed by the BBB and had received an “F” rating.

The BBB Web site describes a company with an F-rating as one whose advertising is “grossly misleading” or “not in compliance with the law’s licensing or registration requirements.”

That scam isn’t the only one to strike the campus. According to Benavidez, less than a year ago, campus police received reports that students were being asked for personal information after responding to a classified advertisement found in the Daily Sundial.

“The ad called for students to work part-time doing clerical type of work,” Benavidez said. “When the students would contact them, these people were asking for personal information such as name, social security number, and date of birth.”

Those advertisements no longer appear in the Daily Sundial.

According to Melissa Lalum, publisher of the Daily Sundial, some individuals have also tried to sell subscriptions of the free newspaper to neighboring communities for a profit.
“This happens at least three times a year,” Lalum said.

Benavidez said students who come in contact with any suspicious solicitors on campus should contact campus police as soon as they can.

“They should decline to be involved or purchase anything, then, walk away, pick up their mobile phone if they have one and contact campus police and let us know where that individual is,” Benavidez said. “Be the best witness possible.”

For immediate response, Villalobos said students should call DPS dispatch at (818) 677-2111.