BUCKHANNON - City officials and local police are warning residents not to be swept away by a recent house sweeper scam.
City recorder and zoning officer Rich Clemens sent an email to media outlets and community members Friday, alerting them about reports of so-called Kirby sweeper salespeople who have attempted to enter homes without the permission of the owner.
Kirby, a Scott Fetzer company, sells vacuum cleaners, according to its website, www.kirby.com.
"Reports of 'Kirby' sweeper salespersons in the area that try to force their way into a home," Clemens wrote in the email. "No permits have been issued with the city for such activity. Please report to local authorities if noticed in your area."
Lt. Doug Loudin with the Buckhannon Police Department issued a be-on-the-lookout notice for so-called Kirby sweeper salespeople last week.
"I have a report of two males driving a white SUV knocking on doors, trying to sell Kirby vacuum cleaners and forcing their way into homes," Loudin said Monday. "It hasn't happened in the city yet, but we just wanted people to be aware of it."
Loudin said the vacuum salesmen were knocking on doors along the Carper Road off Route 20 north, just past Lowe's.
"Usually their M.O. (modus operandi or method of operation) is to steal prescription drugs," Loudin said. "There are usually two of them, and one tries to distract (the resident) by selling them something, while the other person asks to use the bathroom and goes into their medicine cabinet and steals their prescriptions.
"Don't let them in your homes," Loudin added.
Halle Sminchak, director of customer and public relations and business compliance for the Kirby company, said sweepers are typically sold via independently owned and operated distributorships.
Through a network of salespeople, the distributorships then sell the sweepers to consumers, using in-home demonstrations, Sminchak explained in an email.
Sminchak said the company has "several distributors which may be selling in Upshur County."
"Since our consumers open their doors to our distributors and their dealers, we require our distributors to conduct themselves legally and ethically," she said in a statement, adding that those distributors sign contracts that require them to comply with all federal, state and local laws.
"We are disappointed to learn that one of our distributors may not be adhering to his/her agreement with The Kirby Company," Sminchak said. "We would appreciate any information you have that may help us identify the distributorship involved. The Kirby Company takes complaints against its independent distributors very seriously and would appreciate the opportunity to investigate."
Consumers may call the customer relations department at 1-800-494-8586, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.