Company sets the record straight amid kidnapping rumors

LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. – A company in the middle of an internet rumor that’s swept through the metro is setting the record straight Wednesday.

Residents said the door-to-door sales people claim to sell educational books. But they said the sales people are very aggressive and ask suspicious questions, sometimes about their kids. Some online comments have even gone as far to say these sales people are a part of a human trafficking ring.

Trey Campbell, a company spokesperson for Southwestern Advantage, said it all started on Facebook. He said there was a rumor started by someone near Tulsa, Okla. Campbell said it spread from there to others states, including Missouri, where similar suspicious stories popped up.

Pictures of these sales people are making their rounds on the social media site because residents said in their comments they’re trying to warn others.

The worries are growing so much, Lee’s Summit Police posted an update on its Facebook page Wednesday morning. Sgt. Chris Depue said it’s already gotten nearly 1,300 shares and about 165 comments.

“Our goal was to go out there and put out information to kind of allay their fears about that hoax,” Depue said.

Depue said these sales people are actually with the company and they really do sell educational products. He said they know this because they arrested two of them back in June for not having a proper permit to solicit. But Depue said those solicitors got those permits the next day and the police department has not had a problem since. He said permits should be prominently displayed on the person selling.

“It just made people very uneasy that they’re sales tactic was very pushy and they’re asking about their kids, which always puts people on edge,” Depue said.

Residents have told FOX 4, the sellers are asking how many kids they have and who else has kids in their neighborhood. They also said these sales people try to push their way in to use the bathroom or simply stay put until someone opens the door.

“That would not be behavior conducive to anything that we teach,” Campbell said. “We do not encourage aggressive selling or any kind of behavior that would be led to believe is unprofessional.”

The Nashville, Tenn. company’s spokesperson said these are all out-of-state college students, who are trained for weeks to do this. Campbell said they also attend training during their work in other states. Campbell said the students stay with a host family and sell to help pay for tuition.

Campbell said the company has actually been around for more than a century in Missouri.

He said trying to rid this social media rumor, especially the part about kidnapping, is not easy.

“That’s a serious serious allegation and it’s something being shared that is defaming to individuals and untrue,” Campbell said.

Campbell said one lady’s picture who has been circulating online, is actually Amy Evans.  Campbell said she is a New Mexico State University student. He said the students are all done this week as they must get ready to go back to school.

Depue said if you don’t want solicitors at your door, all you need is a no soliciting sign in plain view. Lee’s Summit Police Department hands them out for free. Depue adds, if you really do feel uncomfortable, call police.

Follow me on Facebook: facebook.com/GiaVangFox4

email: gia.vang@wdaftv4.com

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