If a young person knocks on your door and says they're selling magazines for a charity, wait before reaching for your pocketbook. The Washington Attorney General's Office, which issued a warning about Fresh Start Opportunities in March, says solicitors have returned to Washington state.
Fresh Start Opportunities claims to be a "job business training company" that sends young adults door to door to give them a "fresh start" on life. The organization has ignored repeated inquiries from the Secretary of State's Office concerning its failure to register as a charity, as well as consumer complaints received by the Attorney General's Office and the Better Business Bureau.
"After paying generous amounts for subscriptions, consumers throughout the country never received the magazines and have no idea how their money was spent," said Attorney General Rob McKenna.
The AGO has received complaints from consumers who paid $50 to $784 for subscriptions. A common theme among the complainants is that they were touched by the solicitors' stories. They said solicitors claimed to be earning money for college, working toward a better job, receiving points for a free trip, or contributing proceeds to help homeless youth. Consumers paid for subscriptions by check.
The Attorney General's Office has received complaints from consumers nationwide because the company lists a downtown Seattle address on its Web site. But it's just a mail-forwarding service. A business scans the letters then sends the files by e-mail to the addressee, believed to be located in another state. So no one from Fresh Start Opportunities ever has to step inside to pick up the mail, such as refund requests.
The Web site also lists a toll-free phone number. When called, an automatic message says the number is "temporarily unavailable."
A 19-year-old man working for Fresh Start Opportunities was arrested last fall in connection with an Edmonds robbery and was a suspect in burglaries in Sammamish and Tumwater.
A state search engine listing registered charities is available at www.secstate.wa.gov/charities.