Website blows whistle on alleged tissue scam

West-side neighbors say survey takers try to gain entry to homes

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

Published:

 

Word is spreading among west-side neighbors regarding what seems like a blatant scam involving … tissues.

According to several neighborhood commentators on the site nextdoor.com, two young men claiming to conduct a door-to-door survey and sales pitch were asking if residents use Kleenex tissues. They told respondents that if they were allowed to come inside their homes, they would make $50 from their boss — who was watching from a white SUV nearby.

"He never made any mention as to what he was selling, or what the mystery product was … but seemed really intent to come into our home," wrote one Lincoln neighbor.

That online comment, posted late Tuesday on the neighborhood site nextdoor.com, rapidly drew a slew of similar stories posted by people in the Fruit Valley, Carter Park and Northwest neighborhoods. Nobody managed to get the license number of the white SUV.

"This may be legit, but came across as super-shady," the Lincoln writer posted.

A Fruit Valley writer described a similar experience: "I thought it was odd that the young man didn't introduce himself, didn't identify what company he was working for and wasn't wearing any kind of ID," wrote Kathy. Another poster said the white SUV was a Ford Expedition without license plates -- but with a temporary trip permit effectively concealed under tinted glass. And others said Kirby vacuums were being sold -- definitely by the same white SUV, but by a young woman who didn't look well.

Anna Cappa from the Northwest Neighborhood recommended asking anyone claiming to take a survey some basic questions of your own first, such as: What company is it? Where's your business card? Will the results be published?

Because numerous people in different neighborhoods all had the same experience, Cappa recommended notifying the police of every encounter, so it's obvious that these are not isolated incidents.

Door-to-door salespeople or survey takers should always be wearing official ID and never pressure you to come inside your home, scam watchdogs say.

Vancouver Police Department spokeswoman Kim Kapp said her agency has heard a few reports of the alleged tissue scammers in the Fruit Valley Neighborhood. She said the "salespeople" are sometimes men and sometimes women but the story always involves a white SUV with a trip permit but no plates.

"It's something we definitely have on our radar screen," she said.

Suspicious activity should be reported to police. Suspect and vehicle information is particularly useful for the investigation, Kapp said.