When Douglass and Rosella Jackson were in the midst of a move into a new home, they concentrated on making sure all of their family mementos and the rest of their belongings were safely packed and ready to be moved. Living in Elmo, the couple subscribed to satellite service as one of the few luxuries they allowed themselves to enjoy.
While the move may have been a hassle with getting a new satellite dish installed at their new home in Huntington, they didn't think too much of it. But after a month of living in their new home, it has become a problem bigger than they could have imagined.
One day while working around the house, Douglass was approached by a man in a van who stopped near the house. The man introduced himself and said he was a satellite dish installer. Along with that, the man began offering special deals, ones that would not last for very long claiming that if the couple went through DISH Network directly, they would not be eligible for some discounts to lower the monthly bill.
While the Jacksons had not contacted DISH Network, whom they had been customers with for over eight years, to inform the company they would be moving to a new home, they contemplated taking the offer. But after hearing more of the man's story, some things didn't seem to add up. Rosella said the man claimed that both DISH Network and DirecTV, two competing satellite companies, had merged together.
"He told us that we couldn't get certain discounts if we went through DISH Network to get the service set up at the new house and that the two companies had merged together," Jackson said listing some of the man's claims.
Getting a dish set up at the home in Huntington was on the list of things to get done, Rosella said, but it was not a pressing need at that point. After mulling things over, the Jackson's accepted the deal and the man later installed a DirecTV satellite dish, instead of a DISH Network dish, at their new home.
After paying about $130 for satellite service with DISH Network for many years, the Jackson's say they could be paying up to $260 for service because of their contracts with both satellite companies. But the man who approached the couple and installed the dish, identified as Justin Miller, did not leave them a copy of the contract and soon became hard to reach with the phone number he left.
Mr. Jackson attempted to contact Miller during an interview at the Sun Advocate on Wednesday afternoon, but received no answer.
Quickly the couple realized this all might have been a scam by someone possibly looking to make a quick buck.
"Absolutely," Rosella said of the couple being scammed. "That's what it looks like. But how do you try to resolve something when they won't get back to you?"
"The whole thing is just stupid to me," said Douglass. "Why would someone want to do this to another person?"
They filed a police report with the Emery County Sheriff's Department and informed the Emery County Attorney's Office of the incident, but, Rosella said, they are still waiting to see if anything will come from it.
In the police report, the Jacksons stated that Miller told them not to contact DISH Network saying he would take care of that to get a better rate and programming for the couple. It also states that the Jacksons were given a work form and a contract from DirecTV after the work was completed by Miller, instead of DISH Network, as he informed them that the companies had merged together.
As a retired couple on a fixed income, the bills for satellite service would cut into the Jackson's budget leaving little room to use their money. After contacting DirecTV, they were told Justin was affiliated with the company and they found out the contract they signed was legal and binding. The charge to disconnect the service would cost them well over $400, Jackson said.
"The bills for satellite service would cut into our budget," she explained. "It would cut a considerable amount out of our budget."
Shane Baggs, owner of BEH Communications in Price, said this type of situation has happened in the area before. Baggs, who is a local authorized dealer with DirecTV and DISH Network, said many of the people driving in vans marked with the insignias of the two companies come to the area from the Wasatch Front. However, not all of those who drive around the area and converse with possible customers are affiliated with either company, Baggs said.
Emails to DirecTV requesting comment and a phone call to DISH Network on this issue were not returned before press time.
Because he does not go door-to-door to make sales, Baggs said people interested in getting satellite service contact his business directly. And with many of the installers coming from the Wasatch Front, it can be hard to know if every installer is an actual employee of either company, he said.
Baggs said he recalls of at least two similar incidents with the people coming to his office complaining of the situation and asking for advice on what to do. In another case, someone paid $100 to an installer to get a dish hooked up. The installer was never seen or heard from again, he said.
"It's sad what's been happening with these folks," Baggs said. "It's not right."
When dealing with a situation like this, Baggs said people should be careful, adopting a mentality of 'buyer beware', watching out for offers that may sound too good to be true. The consequences in the end can lead to getting stuck in a contract with a huge fee to opt out of it.
While they are still trying to fix their current situation, Rosella said the couple wanted to tell their story to ensure that no one else falls into the same trap as they did.
"I just want to make sure that others around here are not duped into getting services that they don't need," she said.
If anything, Rosella said she has learned to research things like this more so she doesn't fall into a similar situation again in the future. Still, she said, knowing people are out there trying to pull scams on unsuspecting people is hard to comprehend.
"I'm just appalled that people would blatantly do this to hurt someone just for business," Jackson said.
Douglass said he accepts blame for following through on the deal but wonders why someone would deliberately try to scam another person.
"It's a mess and it's kind of my fault," Douglass said. "The man told me he was going to install the satellite system at my new home, but with the same service as I had before. Why would you think that someone would lie to you about something like this?"