On-post Families should beware an “oldie but goodie” consumer fraud tactic that is making the rounds – again.  Companies are targeting servicemembers for the sale of overpriced books and electronics. These companies have operated on or near military installations across the country, particularly the larger ones in California, North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, Missouri, and possibly other states over the past few years.  These companies also use the military discretionary allotment system.

To recognize these business practices in advance in order to avoid them, it may be helpful to know a bit about this type of business and how they hook you in to the deal.  Typically, they send a mailer or flyer to a military household offering a free gift. The military consumer must call a number to arrange for delivery of the free gift, but this is probably just a pretext to gain access to on-post housing. Instead of delivering the free gift, a salesman makes a high-pressure sales pitch to the military household, often resulting in a sale of thousands of dollars of books or electronics to be paid by allotment. Servicemembers have complained that they were not able to cancel their order, that the products were overpriced and/or of poor quality, and that the company has contacted commanding offices, third parties, and engaged in unlawful collections practices. Additionally, the company may then file a small claims action against the servicemembers for collection of the debt.

These companies will tell you that you may cancel within a certain time period.  Don’t be fooled.  You will not be able to reach them by phone and they will delay you beyond your time period to cancel.  Remember, this is how they make their money.

Don’t find yourself in an uncomfortable situation where you can’t say, “No.”  If you want a product, do your research, find the best place to purchase it with the best price, and go out and buy it.  In-home sales, also known as door-to-door sales, is high pressure and often not what you want at a price that is much more than you could purchase in the store or on-line.  Avoid the situation up front.  Deals that seem to be too good to be true, usually are.

If you have already found yourself in this situation, it is important you contact the Better Business Bureau, the North Carolina Attorney General Consumer Fraud Office, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. All three offices are looking for information to reduce or stop these types of practices.

For more information, or if you need assistance making a complaint, contact your nearest Legal Assistance Office.