Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Sheriffs' Solicitation Just Not the Ticket

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Sheriffs' Solicitation Just Not the Ticket

Article excerpt

Readers frequently ask me to publicize a scam that ensnared them, or tried, and I am often notified by government agencies issuing warnings about some currently hot fraud.

This time of year, I'm hearing a lot about the IRS scam, where someone poses as an unpleasant federal agent who is about to have you arrested if you don't quickly wire money for unpaid back taxes. A partner may also call, posing as a friendly local deputy about to reluctantly serve your arrest warrant unless you pay fast.

Real Internal Revenue Service agents won't call with such threats. Likewise, real cops supposedly won't phone you to seek donations for a law enforcement charity, because Florida law officers are barred from doing so.

But you may get a call from someone "representing" a charity that claims all donations help law officers and their families. Why anyone believes it I have no idea. The greatest part of such donations usually disappear into fundraisers' pockets. As I reported last year, a real organization of actual Florida sheriffs warns people to be wary of such phone solicitations.

"Just because it has a law enforcement name doesn't mean it's legitimate," a letter from the Florida Sheriff's Association says again this year.

But I again have to note some irony in that: That very real and legitimate organization of actual Florida sheriffs is itself using what I see as a scammish fundraising technique.

It is a lawful ploy, and one we are so used to that few people question it. But it comes way too close to being what a Federal Trade Commission website warns us about.

"Be wary," the FTC says, "if a fund-raiser suggests you'll receive special treatment for donating. For example, no legitimate fund-raiser would guarantee that you won't be stopped for speeding if you have a police organization's decal in your car window."

Guarantee? Of course not. But the Florida Sheriffs Association is well known for rewarding donors with decals and special tags and other talismans for their cars. …

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