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With Scam Artists Already in Holiday Spirit, Authorities Warn About Door-to-Door Solicitations

Law enforcement agencies are warning residents about a scam involving door-to-door solicitors claiming to be seeking donations for military care packages in the Lompoc and Santa Ynez valleys.

“This is the time of year when solicitors are hoping to find residents who are in the giving spirit,” the Santa Barbara  County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement. “Be cautious when approached by any door-to-door solicitor.”

Deputies cited a solicitor in Vandenberg Village on Dec. 7, and learned that the man claiming to be seeking donations for a nonprofit organization, actually was affiliated with a for-profit agency, Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said.

Hoover said the man, a Ventura resident, was contacted by deputies, who discovered he did not have the proper license or documents to be soliciting.

Investigators determined a group of approximately 15 solicitors had been dropped off by a passenger van to canvas the neighborhood for donations for the “Care Package Campaign,” she said.

It turns out that the Care Package Campaign actually is “a for-profit group that pays solicitors 25 percent of the money earned based off of donations,” the department said.

“There are several warnings and news articles posted on the Internet about this group,” the statement added.

Earlier this month, Lompoc police advised residents of the scam after receiving multiple calls about people going door to door asking for donations for military care packages.

“This is a scam,” the department said on its Facebook page. “Do not give any money to anyone asking for this donation. It is unfortunate that criminals take advantage of people willing to send to those in our military a package from home.”

Many residents who reported on Facebook about the door-to-door visitors said they feared solicitors were casing homes to burglarize them later.

Lompoc police are asking residents to report door-to-door solicitors. Anyone conducting sales or asking for donations must apply for a municipal permit and must provide the permit when asked.

“Traditionally in law enforcement we see an increase in scams during the holidays,” the department said in a statement. “Take the time and ask to see permits, research online or place phone calls in an attempt to validate the charity.”

USA.gov lists a number of scams seen throughout the United States, police added.

The Sheriff’s Department also released tips to determine if the solicitation may involve a scam, including individuals in their late teens to late 20s wearing unprofessional attire and claiming to be part of a sales contest.

The solicitor may carry a laminated sales chart indicating prize levels. The solicitors may be verbally pushy in demanding to enter the home to use the restroom, get a drink of water or make a phone call.

Other tips to avoid door-to-door scams include:

» You can always choose to not answer the door.

»  Display a “No Solicitors” sign on your property.

»  If you’re uncomfortable, ask the solicitor to leave your property.

»  If you do answer the door, don’t open it wide and don’t invite the solicitor into your home.

»  If the solicitor won’t leave or tries to stick a foot in the door, scream, yell and shout for attention, then call 9-1-1.

»  Don’t buy anything without confirming if the business is legitimate and that the solicitor has a license to solicit in Santa Barbara County.

»  If you buy something, remember that law enforcement cannot trace cash transactions easily. If you pay with a check, you are giving your personal information and banking information to a person you don’t know.

»  Call law enforcement and try to give a good description of the individual, including identifying features such as tattoos, scars, hair color, height, weight, gender, accent and type of clothing. Other useful information would include how many people were involved.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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