Date: January 14, 2003 "For Immediate Release"
To: News Media
From: Sheriff Lawrence W. Crow, Jr.
Media Contact:

Michal Shanley, 863 534-6631 or 819-0397 pager

Fraud Unit Warns Citizens to Check Out Telephone Solicitors 
Seeking Donations

Following the report of a caller soliciting a donation for a non-existent memorial foundation, the Polk County Sheriff's Office Fraud Unit is encouraging citizens to always verify that the charity seeking their donation is legitimate.

PCSO Fraud Unit detectives are investigating a report of a local citizen receiving a phone call from a person soliciting a donation for the "Rhoden/Wilkinson Memorial Foundation" (Deputies Larry Rhoden and Brian Wilkinson were killed in a helicopter crash in October of 2001).  There is no such memorial foundation, and detectives are urging citizens to report any future similar calls seeking donations in the fallen deputies' names, or any other possible fraudulent solicitations. Detectives also offer the following tips to help citizens give wisely when asked to donate:  

  • Ask for written information. A legitimate charity will give you information outlining its mission, how your donation will be distributed, and proof that your contribution is tax deductible.
  • Ask for identification. Many states require paid fund-raisers to identify themselves as such and to name the charity for which they're soliciting.
  • Watch out for similar sounding names. Some phony charities use names that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations.
  • Call the charity. Find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. If not, you may be dealing with a sham solicitor.
  • Be skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge you don't remember making. Check your records if you have doubts about a pledge you supposedly made.
  • Refuse high pressure appeals. Legitimate charities won't push you to give on the spot.
  • Be cautious of charities that offer to send a courier for your donation.
  • Consider the costs. When buying merchandise or receiving free goods for giving, remember that these items are paid for out of your contribution. That means less of your donation may go to the charity.
  • Be wary of guaranteed sweepstakes winnings in exchange for your contribution. You never have to donate to be eligible to win.
  • Don't send cash. For security and tax record purposes, pay by check. Write the official name of the charity on your check.
Distribution: Undersheriff, Division Commanders, Communications, News Media

A text only version of this release is also available.

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