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Public Safety Warning: Free Stuff May Not Always Be Free

Dr. Gregory Berg, the city of Cerritos Community & Safety Services Director, reflects on emails or letters offering large sums of money, and a recent door hanger scam that residents should be aware of.

Editor's Note: This article was written and submitted for publishing by Dr. Gregory Berg, the city of Cerritos Community & Safety Services Director.


Most people know not to respond to emails or letters from people claiming to have access to large sums of money and who want to share their good fortune with strangers around the world. I was recently contacted by some nice folks in Nigeria who are relatives of the king, and also by someone in Hungary who won a tremendous sum in his country’s lottery. By wiring a small sum of money and providing personal financial information about myself I can soon become quite wealthy with very little effort on my part. Of course, these are scams and can be quickly deleted from view and memory.

What are a bit less obvious, though, are the countless other scams in our community that keep popping up in our daily lives. 

Recently the Cerritos Community Safety Division staff was contacted by a resident who received a door hanger notifying him that the company named on the flyer was holding a product for him. The door hanger indicated that the merchandise had already been pre-paid and it provided a telephone number to call for delivery information. Our resident wisely decided to forward the notice to the city rather than inquiring about his “free merchandise.” 

When staff contacted the company a very pleasant young lady advised that the door hanger entitled the recipient to a free indoor barbeque. All that was needed to redeem this gift was to agree to answer survey questions about an air purifier product when the barbeque was personally delivered by a company representative. There was no obligation to purchase the air purifier, but it could be if one so desired. 

Let’s be clear, this could be nothing more than a clever marketing ploy by a company trying to peddle home air purifiers (you should read about their usefulness on the Internet before making such a purchase). A cheap gift to get inside of a potential customer’s home to make a bigger sale is a marketing strategy that has existed for decades, perhaps centuries. But it could also be a ploy to get personal information, and particularly credit card numbers, from unsuspecting victims. 

The recommendation from the City of Cerritos Community Safety Division to our residents is simply this: 

Be skeptical of unsolicited free offers; respond only if you have personal knowledge about the company or the product, and even then use caution to protect your personal information; and contact our Community Safety Division staff at (562) 916-1266 and provide us with the information about the contact. We will publicize potential scams because we strongly believe that informed residents are safer residents.    

For an extensive library of crime prevention tips, disaster preparedness information, and a variety of links to other pertinent sites, visit www.safercerritos.com

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