HANFORD — A rumor about door-to-door book sales has some local parents concerned for the safety of their children. Western Christian School Principal Kelly Virden said she’s heard from several concerned parents over the fast few days. The parents reportedly encountered a woman with a European accent selling educational books door to door.
“I have had parents that have come in here that have had this woman come to their door and asking a lot of questions about their kids,” Virden said.
Their concerns may be based on a rumor making rounds on social media sites like Facebook that points to the book sales as a front for human trafficking.
Hanford police Capt. Parker Sever said he was not aware of any such scam, but warned citizens to be cautious when dealing with any door-to-door salesperson.
Besides many of them not having a business license to operate in the city, Sever said burglars commonly pose as door-to-door salespeople to check if a home is occupied before breaking in. The disguise also provides the crooks with an excuse for going from house to house if a police officer passes by.
“You don’t know these people,” Sever said. “Don’t let them in your house.”
A report on the rumor-busting website Snopes.com debunks similar claims from Arizona, Oklahoma and Minnesota. Viral posts on Facebook reported people with “heavy accents” going door to door pretending to sell children’s books and secretly targeting young girls for sex trafficking.
Sever said Facebook is notorious for spreading tall tales and false rumors, including a recent one that claims Mars will appear in the sky as big as the moon.
“These kinds of things come out all the time,” Sever said. “I remember one about a perfume that if you smell it, it’ll knock you out and the people drag you away.”
Virden said she’s learned the saleswoman in question works for a Nashville-based company called Southwestern. A subsidiary company called Southwestern Advantage hires college students to sell educational books and products for children door to door. The company’s website, www.southwesternadvantage.com, allows customers to verify whether a dealer is legitimate using the person’s name and account number.
Virden said she is currently working to bring a police officer to Western Christian School to give a presentation on “stranger danger” to the children.
The private school teaches students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
“I’m sure I see things on Facebook that I know are not true,” Virden said. “But as far as the children here, safety is our number one concern.”
The reporter can be reached at 583-2458 or by email at meiman@HanfordSentinel.com.