The Berkeley Police Department is warning residents, particularly in north Berkeley, to be wary of door-to-door solicitors who falsely claim to be students raising money for athletic programs, or young people selling magazine subscriptions without a business license.
In his latest newsletter to Area 1 residents, Officer Casimiro Pierantoni reports that young people claiming to be from Berkeley High School have been doing door-to-door soliciting. Pierantoni checked with the school which confirmed it does not have any student programs which involve going door to door. “If you have a solicitor claiming to be a student from Berkeley High, it’s a scam, plain and simple,” he writes.
A similar situation with two juveniles claiming to be from the Hercules High School Titans football team was identified as a scam and officers were able to locate and admonish the juveniles. “At the very least, the juveniles were pulling a ‘scam’ to try to get money,” says Pierantoni. “In the worst situation, they were “casing” for residential burglary. Since we have the juveniles fully identified, I will be continuing my investigation.”
Pierantoni also investigated one group soliciting for magazine and newspaper subscriptions and another attempting to sell home alarm systems. Both proved to be companies without business licenses to operate in Berkeley.
“Does it seem like everything associated with door-to-door solicitors in our area is either completely suspicious, totally unprofessional, or a complete scam?” writes Pierantoni. “If more and more of us simply chose not to open our doors to solicitors, or called the police when their behavior was unacceptably suspicious, maybe we would see a decrease in the numbers of unwanted individuals wandering our neighborhoods.”
Update, 14.29: Reader Sarah writes in to say that a soliciting group was handing out fliers to recruit students leaving King Middle School last week. She writes: “My son came home excited about earning money with an afterschool job — then as he read the flier he realized it was a scam. Basically kids go door to door selling stuff and get “paid” on commission. The money doesn’t go to the schools. We did let the school know about the group and the administrators are keeping an eye out for them.”
Update, 20.40: Reader Porcelina Grout writes in to say that the young people in question “are usually kids and young adults brought here from other cities and states who are dropped off in your neighborhood for the day and given a door-to-door script and a quota. They have signed up because they think they are getting a legitimate job.” Grout recommends a website directed at parents whose kids fall for these salesman scams — “a clearing house for information on traveling sales crews” — and some past discussions about this from Berkeley Parents Network.