Friday, May 11, 2007

Magazine scam hits Severna Park

Magazine scam hits Severna Park

The young man at the door told a good tale.
He had just moved to the area and was working his way through college.

He said he was at the Severna Park doorstep yesterday trying to help a local charity.

And, the man said, if he managed to sell enough magazines and books; maybe, just maybe, he could earn a trip to Barcelona.

"It was a hard luck story," said Al Passori, of Boone Trail, explaining the salesman - who signed a receipt with the name Bryan Ackerman - sold him on the idea of buying some reading material for the YMCA in Towson.

"I wrote a check for $160," he said.

But then Mr. Passori started to worry about what he'd done and launched his own investigation into the young man and his company, "Xtreme Marketing."

Mr. Passori said the boy gave a fake address, the YMCA had never heard of the group, and that there are several fraud alerts about the company and Mr. Ackerman posted on

Calls to Xtreme Marketing, which does not have a Web site, were not returned.

An employee at their Sugar Hill, Ga. offices initially said she could not connect a reporter to a manager because the president of the company didn't have an office - only a cell phone.

She eventually agreed to take the reporter's number and pass it to him.

"I'm glad I had the presence of mind to investigate further and stop the bank check before it could be cashed," Mr. Passori said. "It breaks your heart that kids would try to cheat a bona fide charity out of $160 simply to enrich themselves."

County police are now investigating, but advise against giving money to anyone who comes to the door unsolicited.

Other Severna Park residents reported similar incidents yesterday involving two teenage girls from "UMD." Those girls, however, said the books would go to a pediatrics hospital and never mentioned the company's name.

And Mr. Passori said he turned two boys away two weeks ago when they came to his door and immediately started asking about his cars.

"It appears to be a pattern," he said.

According to and numerous other Web sites, Xtreme Marketing also works under the name United Family Circulation and Ultimate Empire Sales. Among the postings on - some of which praised and some of which vilified the company - was one from a person claiming to be a former employee of United Family Circulation.

"Basically they told us lies that we could tell people to get them to buy our subscriptions. A common story was something like "Hi, my name is Scott. I just moved into the neighborhood."

The Better Business Bureau of Atlanta is aware of several similar complaints involving such lies. Xtreme Marketing told the bureau, however, they do not condone lying by their "independent contractors."

United Family Circulation has an unsatisfactory record with the Bureau due to unanswered complaints. Sixty-two complaints were filed against the company.

Also, according to the bureau, Xtreme Marketing, Inc. entered into an "Assurance of Voluntary Compliance" with the Georgia Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs.

"This was due to the company allegedly not providing refunds when consumers did not receive magazines, not honoring cancellations within the correct time frame, and while selling magazines the salespeople stated affiliation with or connection to various charitable organizations, high schools and universities, when such was not the case," the Web site said.

Mr. Passori said the incident will make him think twice about donating to a charity or giving money to a door to door salesman.

"This really irks me," said Mr. Passori. "This has really soured it on me."

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