When a "Penn State student" showed up at Molly Thomas' door selling magazines two weeks ago, yet couldn't name a single class in her own major, the Beaver Hill resident knew something was up.
The woman's excuse? "She said, 'Penn State doesn't really want to know about us going around,' " Thomas (junior-nutrition) said.
Standing outside Thomas' sixth-floor apartment, the woman pressed a ratty laminated pamphlet into her hands, pressuring Thomas to buy subscriptions, so the seller could win a competition. Thomas declined.
The woman asked again, adding that she was currently in third place out of 2,100 people. Thomas still refused.
"She really wanted to sell this to me," Thomas said. "She was just really cheesy. She mentioned how she would have fundraised for Girl Scout cookies, but said she'd eat them before she sold them. I just wanted to laugh in her face."
Thomas wasn't the only student to receive a visit from strangers bearing magazines. Multiple downtown residents and neighboring municipalities have complained of unlicensed door-to-door solicitors, the State College Police Department said.
On Aug. 30, police cited Jeremy Gatlin, an Austin, Texas native, for selling magazines at Meridian Apartments, 636 E. College Ave. Police said they have since received additional complaints from residents at other apartment complexes.
It's never the same person or story. Residents have described visits from a heavyset blonde woman, a black woman, a man with tattoos and others, police said. Pitches follow a familiar script: Solicitors are trying to win "points" by selling magazine subscriptions, they're poor college students and they're "oh-so-close" to their goal.
A woman told Nathan Hazi (junior-biochemistry and molecular biology) two weeks ago that his subscriptions would go toward her college financial aid, but she didn't mention how much it would cost him. And before he knew what was going on, "she had me signed up," the Highland Tower resident said.
"She gave me a receipt, and I looked at the cost. It was over $60," Hazi, who later refused payment, said. "She didn't even mention the exact name of the program she worked for."
But another man, warned by police on Aug. 31 for selling magazines without a permit, offered the name of his employer -- "Unlimited Sales."
The Daily Collegian received an anonymous e-mail from a Meridian resident on the same day
Gatlin was cited, also mentioning a salesman claiming to work for Unlimited Sales.
Unlimited Sales Inc., a Nevada corporation, was investigated in 2001 by Wyoming Attorney General Hoke MacMillan for cheating Cheyenne, Wyo., residents out of more than $1,200, according to a press release.
MacMillan's office confirmed that representatives of the company falsely claimed subscription proceeds would go toward the Boys and Girls Club of Cheyenne, according to the release.
John Petrick, Patton Township Police Department chief, has heard similar complaints.
Two weeks ago, Patton Township police cited two men for selling magazines without a permit, but lacked evidence to press charges. He said he thinks the State College area is being scoured by an out-of-state group, with "one team leader and a whole bunch of underlings that go out and do the magazine soliciting."
"The fact that they were soliciting without a permit caused great concern," Petrick said. "They're very transient. They move from location to location on a daily basis."
Tyrone Parham, Penn State University Police assistant director, said he didn't know if the solicitors had canvassed the campus, but did say the university has had trouble with magazine scam artists in the past.
The best advice he can give, he said, is to trust only yourself when buying a subscription.
"You write a check, it has your name, your address, your banking routing number and your account number," Parham said. "People should find their own way to a magazine subscription and not take one from a stranger."