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Law of the West

John Scorsine

by John Scorsine

Peyton, Colo.

It seems that everyday there is yet another con man or scam artist working at separating us from our money. This last week we almost fell prey to what would appear to be a merchandising scam run by a company on the East Coast.

Early in the week my barn manager for the boarding stables got a call from a salesman. They wanted to send a catalogue and free sample of their “revolutionary” lighting products. As the discussion continued, the salesman kept going on and it seemed that we were long-time customers, because they were also going to send a free gift for his business. Nothing more was thought of it. Just another telemarketer ” hang up the phone ” back to work..

Then a day or two later the express company brings a box, labeled on the outside as “light bulbs” and a second smaller box. Both were from the same company that had called earlier. Smelling something in the air, other than horse manure, a call was placed to the sender. They were invoicing us $1,800 for 30 light bulbs.

Needless to say, there was an exchange of words which lent no doubt that we hadn’t ordered anything of the sort. The shipper offered to reduce the invoice to $900. Wrong! Both boxes were taken back to the express company, unopened, and marked “Refused.” How the balance of this story plays out, we will see.

As I tried to learn about the company that tried to pull this scam, I found that it’s similar to a scam that was run out of Massachusetts in the last few years. There the attorney general went after the flim-flam artists and got $600,000 in penalties and fines. You can read that story at http://www.ago.state.ma.us/sp.cfm?pageid=986&id=734.

There the scoundrels would turn the accounts over to collection agencies and undertake all sorts of other practices in order to collect on the debts these fraudulent transactions generated.

So what should you do if a box of light bulbs or other merchandise arrives that you haven’t ordered? First off, don’t open it. Investigate the shipment first. Call the sender and find out what they sent and why. Document everything, keep good notes. If the packing invoice is on the outside of the package take a copy of it. If you are unable to resolve the shipment with the company, send it back, marked refused.

If you open it, you will be paying the shipping; if you send it back unopened, in most cases the cost of the shipping is on the original sender. When you take the shipment back to the express company or the post office explain the situation. In the case of the postmaster, they will put you in touch with the Postal Inspector ” likely the reason these scams have moved to the express companies.

In all of these scams, you are not alone. Just as in Massachusetts each state in the Rocky Mountain West has an Attorney General’s Office that includes a consumer fraud branch. If you think that you have been the victim of such a transaction, the thing to do is file a complaint with the attorney general. Those offices take these matters very seriously. You can also do as we did and file a complaint with the attorney general in the state the telemarketer is working from. No state likes their business reputation soiled by these cretins and most consumer fraud divisions will aggressively seek them out and shut them down.

The information provided in this column is based upon general principles of law and should not be relied upon in any manner. It is not the intent of this column, its author, publisher or the Fence Post to provide legal advice to any person. You should address specific legal questions to your family lawyer. In Wyoming, the State Bar can refer you to competent lawyers in your community by calling (307) 634-7823. In Colorado, call the Metropolitan Lawyer Referral Service at (303) 831-8000. Readers in Nebraska can receive referrals from the State Bar Association by calling 1-800-742-3005.


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