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September 21, 2021

Possible door-to-door scam reported

Pushy individuals are knocking on doors in the county in what is possibly a scam, according to Alexander County Sheriff Chris Bowman.

Last Friday, on March 24, the Sheriff’s Office received a complaint from a resident on Carson Chapel Road in northeastern Alexander County, said Bowman. He noted that a white female came to the door and was very pushy, stating she was with RTI International and doing “a governmental survey.” The suspect drove a red car.

An earlier instance took place on January 16, 2017, in Basin Creek area off Teague Town Road. That suspect drove a gold color Ford Explorer.

In both instances residents were asked very personal questions, such as Social Security numbers and if they lived alone.

“If these individuals do not check in with our Communications office or the Sheriff’s Office, they are probably not legitimate,” Bowman warned.

Anyone who sees these individuals may report them to the Sheriff’s Office by calling 828-632-2911.

Clarification on RTI International

(updated April 5, 4:32 p.m.)

A company individual has reached out to The Times regarding our article about a possible door-to-door scam with persons claiming to be from RTI International.

The following statement came from Lisa Bistreich-Wolfe, Media Relations Manager, RTI International:

“It is not a scam. It’s important government funded research, conducted by RTI International,” Bistreich-Wolfe wrote in an email to The Times.

“RTI (also called Research Triangle Institute) is conducting a study called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) that seeks to examine the use and non-use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs as well as attitudes and knowledge about drugs and other mental health issues. RTI is a non-profit research organization located in the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. RTI is under contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to conduct the NSDUH. NSDUH is authorized by Section 505 of the Public Health Service Act (42 USC 290aa4) and is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“A limited number of households are randomly selected to participate in this survey to represent the population of the United States, and we make every effort to provide selected households the opportunity to participate. Each residence is sent an advance letter to indicate their household was selected for the study and that a professional field interviewer, with a photo ID badge, will be visiting the household sometime during the next few weeks.

“Our study involves two parts. The first part, which we call a ‘screening,’ usually takes only a few minutes. During this screening, the interviewer asks a few brief questions about the people in the household using a hand-held computer. This screening process is used to determine if anyone in the household will be selected to take part in a full, hour-long interview. Those selected and who choose to take part in the full interview sit down with the interviewer and enter responses directly into a laptop computer. At the end of the interview, each respondent receives a cash payment of $30 as a token of appreciation for participating.

“Please rest assured that the NSDUH does not ask for personally identifying information such as Social Security numbers. Furthermore, by Federal law, all information provided by respondents is kept confidential and used only for statistical purposes. While participation in the NSDUH is valuable, it is completely voluntary and we respect each individual’s right to refuse to participate,” Bistreich-Wolfe stated.

“The NSDUH project is sponsored by an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (OMB No. 0930-0110). Additional information about the NSDUH can be accessed on the Internet at http://nsduhweb.rti.org, http://www.samhsa.gov, and http://www.rti.org,” Bistreich-Wolfe concluded.

34 Comments

  1. Mike on July 18, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    Same thing just happened to me. Just turned her away, she kept insisting, I said goodbye.

    • Julio Cesar moran on October 27, 2018 at 2:51 am

      This person isnt fake. Shes just doing her job and at wirst the individual at the household makes $30 the state uses the answers to help them with decisions for your community.

    • Jen on November 11, 2019 at 7:08 pm

      I had a man (I guess interviewer) come to my home when I was there alone, knock on the door aggressively twice before he left. )I never answer the door.) The next day he came by twice in a few hours loudly knocking, this is not normal behavior! The police were called and it was reported. The guy returned again 2 days later and my spouse told him he needed to leave us alone. A week later I get a letter in the mail because of my “concerns” not feeling safe in my own home. I ignored them and tonight, at 7:45pm on Veteran’s Day they knock AGAIN! I was advised to give them 1 written warning before we send as cease and desist letter. These people are aggressive and worse than any robocaller out there!

  2. Sandy on October 10, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    Had the exact same experience. had the interview, found this page after a brief google search as the whole experience was quite odd. I was asked a few questions from my front door…turns out i wasnt qualified? Very strange…really hoping it wasnt some sort of scam because the whole experience was really weird!

  3. Erik on July 30, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    These people keep coming to my house when I am not home and they leave an obnoxious note saying they were sorry they missed me and THEY WILL BE BACK. At this point it is almost like stalking.

  4. Crystal on August 14, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    A guy from here showed up over a week ago as I was on my way out the door. His persistence held me up from a prior scheduled engagement. He’s been back twice and told were not interested. If he comes back again he will see my property is now posted. This company needs to do something about their pushy employees! It’s 2018 and this type of behavior is alarming to me as a mother. My anxiety is at an all time high and as I was writing this he was pulling in again.

    • Julio Cesar moran on October 27, 2018 at 2:54 am

      Why not just say your not interested. Instead of the lies. Im sure he would not come back if you just said im not interested. But when you use phony excuses then they assume well they didnt say no. Remember it takes 2. Just be clear next time. Remember this is their job.

      • Joe on December 24, 2018 at 10:02 am

        Julio…Did you read Crystal’s comment with full comprehension? She said in her 3rd Sentence that the person had been told there was NO interest. She also stated in her next sentence that her Property will be Posted! I would take that as “No Solicitors”!

        I happened to get one of the letters, and I have No Intent to answer any questions from Anyone I do Not know. I will tell the person Only One Time I’m Not Interested.

        Unless these people have registered with the City here to solicit, they will be in violation of our Ordinance.

        Remember…A lot of people are very aware in This Day of Scams. This May Not be one, but to a lot of people, that does not matter.

        • Kimbrough on August 13, 2019 at 10:03 pm

          If you check their website this is a government sponsored study and not a solicitation. They are giving you $30 to answer some questions about your experiences to give insight about the community. It’s a valid statistical research, not a scam or sales tactic. However, if you really don’t want to help or get the cash, you can specifically tell them “Do not come back again or leave materials.” It will save your time, the interviewers time, and plenty of taxpayer money.

  5. Susie on December 16, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    Just had my experience with a black lady driving blue Toyota car. She explained who she was. I told her I wasn’t interested. She said ok and left

  6. Sandy McDonald on January 18, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    Just had the same experience with a pushy representative who said a letter had been mailed to me two weeks earlier explaining the program. I have my door posted for no solicitors. The questions were strange and personal. My age, did I live alone, my phone number, was this my house number. I did not open the door as I do not open the door to strangers and I am sick with a cold. Yet, that did not stop her, she just kept going down her list of questions. She concluded that I did not qualify for an interview and I closed the door. Then I started thinking….wait a minute, the government is shut down so how can she be with the Dept. of Health & Human Services. I can’t call them to inquire if this is a legitimate interview and why would she be working? Also, Census has all of this information. So, I went to the internet looking for answers and found this. I sincerely hope this is not some kind of a scam. I live in Goodyear, AZ.

    • B Thomas on February 27, 2019 at 10:22 pm

      I am one of those interviewers. We work for companies who contract with government agencies to collect data. Any time congress spends money on a program, be it medicaid, school lunches, head start preschool programs, or drug and alcohol prevention, energy subsidies, Social Security—virtually anything you can think of that the government subsidizes or oversees, there is money allocated to determine if those programs are working as intended. We rely on regular citizens, chosen by random addresses to help us collect data for whatever program the specific study is trying to find out. Be diligent and check up on whoever is knocking on your door, we have credentials and phone numbers and ways to prove we are who we say we are, but it is really helpful to find citizens who are willing to participate in this important data collection. If data is still being collected during a government shutdown, it is because the interviewers are contracted with some other company such as RTI, Westat, Mathmathica or NORC (to name a few) and not working directly for the department of Health and Human Services or whatever government agency contracted the study. Nothing makes my day more than being greeted at a door by someone who is open to meeting me, finding out why I am on their doorstep and being willing to be screened to see if they may or may not qualify to be a study participant. From there, those who screen in and are willing to help are even more appreciated. There is always an incentive, $$ to say thanks for your participation and while it doesn’t always add up to more than your hourly wage, it pays better than jury duty and never takes as long! You should care to participate in the follow up as to how your tax dollars are spent. It’s part of the democracy, even if you are republican 😉

      • Shelly on March 28, 2019 at 12:54 pm

        This is so well said! Thank you for explaining the field interviewers pov.

      • lori woodman on May 27, 2019 at 12:14 am

        Thing is that they are asking personal Questions and will not let us here at the rental place see any type of info about who they are etc. they are very rude and we here do not want them here. we are not interested in doing it, But they refuse to leave us alone. NO means NO.

      • Kimbrough on August 13, 2019 at 10:05 pm

        Yes! Thank you. Very well said.

      • Beth on December 12, 2020 at 5:31 pm

        BIG BROTHER.

      • Tom Tharos on July 10, 2021 at 8:07 am

        “It’s part of the democracy, even if you are republican.”
        Wow! Hate much? It’s 2021 and you’ve just made me decide not to participate.
        Thanks.

  7. Dawn on January 22, 2019 at 11:51 am

    The fact that they are coming onto a rental property that is privately owned and states right on the door, “No Solicitors” should be enough for the person performing their “job” not to approach the property. We have had a pushy person come out to attempt the interview and was not willing to take no for an answer. This constitutes as harassment and the police will be called the next time this individual is seen on the property again. No means no and the individuals/property rights should be respected. Job or not, these employees should be informed not to approach properties that do not allow solicitation and that the pushy and/or rude car salesman attitude will not be tolerated.

  8. Lamar on January 24, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    As a scientific researcher, I’d like to add two thoughts. First, my apologies to those confused by this process, on behalf of field interviewers who evidently did not explain clearly what they were doing. And like Ms. Bistreich-Wolfe said, they should never ask for a Social Security number or try to sell anything. If someone does please be cautious, as it could indeed be a scam.

    Second, though, to try to explain, the legitimate people in this article are likely so pushy because they’re trying to get statistically accurate information: in order to accurately represent the US population, a random sample has to actively approach people, rather than letting them volunteer to participate. For instance, if the town where I live is made up of 1000 people from Iceland and only 50 people from Tonga, and I want to do a survey about the town by talking to 50 people, it’s pretty important that I encourage the 1 or 2 people from Tonga that I randomly select that they participate. Otherwise I’ll miss the views of that segment of the town. Country of origin is just one example of characteristics that may be important; the people doing the survey may also want to get a representative sample on age, or gender, or education level, or whatever. They may even want to hear the views of all the people in the town with “No Solicitation” signs, although certainly it’s everyone’s right to decline to participate, which should be respected.

    Anyway, I hope that could be helpful to someone reading this in the future.

  9. Christina Farris on January 26, 2019 at 2:07 am

    A lady came to our door today while I was away. Our house guest answered the door and said he was just starting here. She left a page saying pretty much word for word what was said above. And that she WILL be back. I was afraid it was a scam and i’m very hesitant to give out personal information. I don’t feel it’s really anyone’s business if any of us smoke, do drugs, etc…

  10. Marla on February 25, 2019 at 4:48 pm

    My family also recently had a similar experience same letter (we chose not to participate) a few weeks later a female came to the house and spoke to my 26 year old who said we weren’t interested in participating. About 2-3 weeks later at 6:50 pm (after dark where we are) about to have a birthday celebration with guests a man came knocking asking us to participate as my 26 year old was the person who fit their demographic and AGAIN we said no and his company was told so previously he responded we were hoping you’d reconsider we responded again no. Not a week later we received another letter asking us to reconsider and for doing so a $30 gift would be given. I too did some checking and found all of these other instances. How do they say “voluntary “ yet be allowed to just show up at your home repeatedly unannounced putting on the spot! Such an invasion of our privacy!

  11. Kay Jackson on May 6, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    “While participation in the NSDUH is valuable, it is completely voluntary and we respect each individual’s right to refuse to participate,” Bistreich-Wolfe stated.” These people have shown up at our house at leas5 times now! They are very pushy and prying! We have told them several times we are not interested but they just keep coming. They even had the nerve to ask why we didn’t want to participate? We owe them no explanation and frankly it’s none of their business! We are very busy and always on the go and don’t have time to sit around and deal with them. They have shown up as we are leaving and can clearly see we are trying to get kids in the car and on the way out yet they persist in asking their questions practically chasing us down the driveway! Their presence has been invasive and intrusive and just flat out rude! This behavior certainly does not meet my definition of “respecting individual’s right to refuse to participate”!

    • Susan Williams on January 10, 2020 at 2:21 pm

      I am a field interviewer for RTI. The reason you are asked why you don’t want to participate is to help us develop materials that better explain the study. Honestly, it is like being struck by lightning 16 times to even be IN the study. It’s is a great opportunity to better YOUR community. Funding for treatment and intervention in the case of substance use flows into or away from your community depending on results. We work “residential segments” that include about 40-60 selected houses for AN ENTIRE COUNTY. You are very important, and we always hope you’ll research us before blindly rejecting participation. Even if you are busy, this is worth sacrificing an hour.

  12. lori west on May 27, 2019 at 12:08 am

    They (two different females) don’t know if they are the same ones, are here in Winsted,MN. we have been having trouble with them, These two are rude and pushy, try to push their way into residents homes. won’t let anyone read their badges or see paperwork, They don’t have business cards either. We were told that they have to come 10 times to get surveys done. won’t take no for a answer.

    • Kimbrough on August 13, 2019 at 10:15 pm

      These studies are extremely important when it comes to where the government is going to spend its resources. They are giving you $30 and paying many hours of the interviewer’s time just to attempt to get YOUR experiences and opinions. It’s a valid statistical research, not a scam or sales tactic. You will represent thousands of people who are the most like you. However, if you really don’t want to help or get the cash, you can specifically tell them “Do not come back again or leave materials.” It will save your time, the interviewers time, and plenty of taxpayer money.

  13. Ya boy on August 10, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    I just did this survey, it’s not a scam. It will, however, take FOREVER if you tell the truth and used to party

  14. Jesus Shuttlesworth on August 24, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    NOT A SCAM FOLKS! Be respectful and help, it doesn’t
    take much time or affect you in any way and you may get $30. The information clearly states its voluntary, and they NEVER ask you any personal questions, if someone indeed is asking personal questions such as bank or social, then by all means report them. Even if they dont ask personal questions, but you feel some type of way, also reprot them, so the officer can verify for you that they are legitimate. WE ALL HAVE A HEART, AND A LITTLE HELP GOES A LONG WAY! ✌❤

    • SCS on September 27, 2019 at 2:16 pm

      What do you mean “be respectful”? How is it disrespectful to decline to participate? I received the letter today, and based on my research, the company selected to collect the data has been contracted by USDHHS since 1988. I found results of several of these studies over the past years. I’d like to know exactly what the government has done with the data, because every indicator points to a worsening situation in this country. That, in addition to some overblown comments on this site, is why I will decline to participate. It is not okay to call people disrespectful for exercising their right to not invite strangers into their homes and frankly, the way the government has chosen to go about collecting this data is, to use the vernacular, a little creepy.

  15. Candy on November 15, 2019 at 6:40 pm

    After receiving a letter informing me my address was randomly selected for this survey and residents should expect a visit from a surveyor for an interview. There was no mention of contacting me to schedule a date and time, which I thought to be odd. I did my research and read multiple complaints of feeling harassed by these surveyors. I decided if they showed up at my house, I would decline to participate. Weeks went by and I forgot about it. I received another letter stating the surveyor had been trying to contact me. I’m on the road a lot so I assume they kept missing me. A few more weeks went by. Then one morning around 4am, I woke up to someone banging on my front door. There were 3 police officers at the door asking me if I was okay. They had received a 911 call from someone on my property in distress. The call pinged to my yard. I was spooked then forgot then forgot about it. Last night, I was watching TV and heard someone at my gate yelling, Hey!!!!!!!!!!! Hey!!!!!!!!!! I figured it was teenagers walking by. Before bed, I let my dogs out. Both of them were barking like crazy. I opened the door to let them in and there was a lady standing at my gate, yelling Hey!!! Hey!!! I told the lady I’m sorry but I don’t talk to strangers I shut the door. For all I knew she could have had a gun or trying to distract me for a home invasion. I didn’t know. This morning I woke up, let the dogs out and they were barking like crazy again. I noticed a lady getting into a car across the street. I kept checking and she sat sat there for 4 hours, then got out of the car, walked over to my gate and started yelling HEY!!!! HEY!!!!! Then eventually went back to sit in the car. By this time, I was furious and angry about how this woman had been harassing me. I called police and they told the woman she had to leave the neighborhood and stop bothering me. She argued her right to be, “Trying to do her job”. How am I supposed to feel comfortable talking to this irrational strange woman late at night in the freezing cold, let alone in my house? Shame on our govt shame on people who fill these jobs treating people with disrespect! If it happens again, I will press charges for stalking!

    • Susan Williams on January 10, 2020 at 2:27 pm

      We contact you in person because we don’t know and don’t want to know your name and phone number, all to protect YOUR privacy.

  16. Cathy Cohee on November 22, 2019 at 4:08 pm

    A couple of weeks ago we, too, received a letter. Two days later a very pushy and fast talking man shows up and talks to my husband, who has dementia. After a couple of minutes I went out to see what was going on. He gave me his spiel and I told him he weren’t interested. He kept talking so I spoke a little louder and firmer that we weren’t interested. He left after that. Today we received the second letter. I hope he doesn’t come back. If he does I will call the police. I have the prerogative of whether I want to take a survey. I don’t.

  17. Ronda on January 23, 2020 at 6:02 pm

    I got a guy at my door on two separate occasions knocking. Thank goodness for my big dogs bark. I happened to be home the second time he came and from what I could understand between my dog barking and his heavy Indian accent he was from the us department of health. He never goes to the houses around me so I am assuming it’s a scam. Some many scams out there who knows when anything is real.

  18. Charity Gaye on April 27, 2020 at 8:06 pm

    It’s not a scam at all! We did it and recieved our 30 bucks. No personal info was asked. It was all confidential and our interviewer was super fun! I did think it was odd that she showed up at night, but she explained that most people are home after 5 and I couldn’t argue with that because…I’m only home after 5 haha. I think I’m times like these it is a little jarring to have some rando show up at your house, but if you listen to what they are saying and research the company, you understand why they act like they do and you’re willing to participate. Besides who doesn’t like money? It’s 30 dollars cash and we went out to eat with ours after she left so…

  19. Keith on July 21, 2021 at 12:59 am

    I reacted to the welcome letter when they flashed that mint-condition two dollar bill with a brochure containing all of these university symbols. My first response was to the authority of that green sheet glued to the welcome brochure. A week later I spent the green sheet and found this brochure again wondering why someone would send me two dollar bill, $30 more to finish a single survey, all for an objective study? I jumped online, found all these angry door knocking and payment complaints so I responded with a deletion letter thinking this was a scam. It might not be a scam. Since they are working with a limited sample, to where they cannot add respondents, management might face the challenge that each employee better get a high response rate or they will lose that block of data. That demand combined with the limited response of the door-to-door method will motivate a job comparable to the most stressful sweatshop imagined. The average employee who hasn’t had an interview, research, or even statistics course won’t know how to motivate a subject sitting at home, especially if that welcome letter was left unopened with all the junk mail. The consumer who actually sees the letter might question why that two dollar bill in the welcome letter existed first place. Combine that with the temporary manager, sitting under a regional manager, who sees only the numbers that each employee brings back will react to a low response rate and this would be stressful. These poor guys sitting under the manager might be motivated to endlessly knock on doors to keep that sample set active or possibly lose their job. IIf they come to my door tomorrow ill still give them a chance

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