RICHMOND (KPIX 5) — Con artists are rolling through the Bay Area, offering to sell seemingly high-quality electronics for dirt cheap prices. People who fall for it could end up with a box full of poor quality audio equipment, or in some cases, nothing at all.
It’s known as the “Speaker Scam” and the “White Van Scam.” And KPIX 5 photographer Elliott Mendoza experienced it firsthand recently at the Hilltop Mall parking lot in Richmond. Mendoza said two men approached him, saying they had been hired to deliver a speaker system, but couldn’t make the delivery because of a mix-up.
“They said ‘we have the address, but there’s nobody at this address, so we have to get rid of these speakers,’” Mendoza recalled.
The men presented a box containing a “RolkOlsen,” home theater system, with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $2,799. But they were willing to bargain, and offer to sell the box for just $200. He took them up on the offer just to see what scam was all about.
Eve Edelson, author of the book “Scamorama,” said it’s a common scam that has been taking place in parking lots around the world for decades.
“Usually the cover story is ‘It was overstock, and our boss says we have to unload this and we have to make a deal, please help us out,’” Edelson told KPIX 5 ConsumerWatch.
The products are sold under a wide variety of names, but are not well-known brands.
And while most people assume the goods were stolen, Edelson said, most of it is not.
“This is stuff that is imported in bulk from China and then farmed out to individuals to hawk on a commission basis,” Edelson said.
Additionally, anyone selling electronic equipment, or anything else subject to state sales tax, is required to have a seller’s permit.
So, what do buyers get for their money? ConsumerWatch asked audio expert Hatch Archouniani to evaluate the “RolkOlsen,” system. Archouniani was concerned about the system’s poor-quality wiring and materials. And unlike most home theater systems, this one did not come with an amplifier.
He also gave the sound poor reviews. “You’re basically getting the high end, and some of the low end, and nothing in between,” Archouniani said.
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