First Posted: 12/24/2008
Someone apparently has been taking advantage of the giving spirit of Christmas by seeking donations for both the Mount Airy Police Department and N.C. Highway Patrol through telephone calls to local residents.
The only problem is, neither city police nor the Highway Patrol are sponsoring such fund-raising efforts and those calls are bogus.
The Mount Airy Police Department does not solicit donations or funds by telephone or mail, according to Lt. Jim Armbrister.
They do on occasion solicit, in person, in uniform, for special community projects, Armbrister added Wednesday. No funds are solicited to benefit the department itself, but used to directly benefit youth in the community, such as for Community Kids Day.
Recently, both residents and businesses here have reported receiving calls from a suspect seeking contributions for the police. The suspect has been using a false name as part of the scam, Capt. William Morris, but the Police Department has no employee by that name.
Authorities advise those who receive such a call to disregard it and to not provide any personal information to the suspect.
These bogus solicitations seem well-timed, Armbrister said, particularly at this time of the year people prey on peoples good-hearted nature.
Police advise relying on several rules of thumb whenever receiving a call allegedly seeking contributions for some worthy cause. Right off, ask them who they are and where they are, said Armbrister, who added that a legitimate solicitor should have no trouble providing an address or telephone number to confirm their existence.
A caller not being forthcoming with such details should raise a red flag to go no further with the conversation, and criminals often will hang up when pressed for that information.
Another tip is not to give to an unfamiliar individual or organization, Armbrister advises.
While generating funds from the public is a vital function for many charitable entities in order to support their various missions, they usually rely on methods other than the telephone.
Experienced organizations know how to go about it in a reputable way, Armbrister said. People just dont call out of the blue.
Legitimate fund-raisers tend to make contacts with prospective donors either through mail correspondence or face to face. Either way, it gives the public a point of reference for identifying recipients of donations, the police spokesman added.
Highway Patrol Scam
Reports also have surfaced regarding a separate scam in which solicitations are being sought on behalf of the N.C. Highway Patrol, allegedly for a needy child.
Monday, I got calls from three different people who were contacted, Sgt. Tyre Needham said Wednesday. He said that a man identifying himself as Sgt. Billy Fields, also a fake name, has been making the calls, from a number that is coming up private on recipients phones.
In some cases, the man has hung up when would-be contributors have asked questions.
We just dont do that we dont call people for donations, Needham said.
We just want the citizens of Mount Airy to know that we are not affiliated with this person at all, the Highway Patrol sergeant added. If they get a call from someone wanting a donation and theyre representing themselves as a trooper, it is false.
Needham said the agency does care about needy children and will get involved in give a kid a Christmas campaigns or similar efforts. But he said that the Highway Patrol, an arm of state government, never would engage in such a telephone campaign to aid either itself or others.
We get all our funding from the taxpayers, Needham said, and we dont solicit any (other) money from citizens whatsoever.
Statewide, the Highway Patrol also is warning about telemarketing organizations seeking donations on behalf of the agency, with officials saying that it receives no funding from those groups.
Some do include in their names the terms Highway Patrol, state troopers or North Carolina Highway Patrol, according to Capt. Everett Clendenin, a spokesman in Raleigh.
While some officers may be members of these associations on their own time, these organizations are not affiliated with the NCSHP. They are private associations raising money to fund their own programs, Clendenin added.
Anyone who has been contacted by an organization that they believe is misrepresenting itself can call the N.C. Attorney Generals Office Consumer Protection Division at (919) 716-6000.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected], or at 719-1924.