Students scammed by sales of fake magazines

In recent weeks, several students have been victims of an apparent scam to solicit money in exchange for fake magazine subscriptions. According to the Dept. of Public Safety, six students have reported being approached by these solicitors since mid-September.

The solicitors have been going door-to-door at various off-campus apartment complexes, including Troy Hall, Cardinal Gardens and Regal Trojan. They claim to be making extra money by selling magazine subscriptions and are asking for additional donations that they claim will go toward charitable causes such as autism and cancer research.

DPS Deputy Chief David Carlisle said he’s fairly confident that students won’t be receiving magazines any time soon and that the donations will not be given to charity.

“[The solicitors] are saying subscriptions can only be purchased in cash and on more than one occasion these solicitors have talked the student into going to the ATM and withdrawing cash,” Carlisle said. “Because the ruse involves ‘charity’ more than one student has given several hundred dollars, which is in excess of most magazine subscriptions.”

The receipts given to students are yellow and pink and read “D.C. Sales,” but Carlisle said DPS is suspicious because the receipts don’t list the specific items purchased.

Carlisle said the scam artists appear to be working in a group and that they sometimes pose as USC students.

DPS and Los Angeles Police Department detectives are working together to build a case, but Carlisle said cases like these can often take a long time to verify because magazine subscriptions take time to go into effect.

“A person who gave one of these solicitors $500 only a few days ago may not realize that the magazines probably aren’t going to be coming,” Carlisle said. “While we strongly suspect that it’s a theft by trick or device, or a scam or ruse, it takes a while for investigators to determine that in fact the company is fictitious and to establish that it was a completely false claim.”

Even if students do receive the magazines, they might not receive the quantity that they paid for. The case then becomes a civil matter rather than a criminal one.

DPS has reached out to other colleges, including UCLA, L.A. Trade Tech and Cal State L.A., to see if they have any reports of a similar scam. Carlisle said scams like these are fairly common on college campuses and that he would not be surprised if some encounters with the group have gone unreported.

“Students should be wary, and unless they’re absolutely certain it’s legitimate — and many aren’t — they should decline,” Carlisle said.  “Never give cash, never give a credit card number. If the person insists, students can always volunteer to meet them at [DPS headquarters] and do the transaction here. We’d love to meet them.”