Give them the cold shoulder.
That's how people should respond to telephone solicitors with something to sell, Routt County Sheriff John Warner said.
Law enforcement agents don't want residents being duped into contributing to a scam.
A recent complaint about a suspicious fund-raising campaign prompted Warner to put out an advisory about phony telephone solicitors.
A woman told police that a man called her house asking if she would give $50 to participate in an essay contest. The man first talked to the woman's son. When the son declined the offer and hung up, the man called back.
"Just hang up," Warner said.
People can take steps to protect themselves from falling prey to not-so-charitable charities.
Warner suggested that people start by asking plenty of questions. No one should take someone else's word when it involves a contribution of any kind.
Groups looking for donations should put their intentions in print, he said.
A postmarked letter that details a fund-raising campaign has more credibility than a faceless stranger who is trying to sell something from the other end of the line.
But a letter isn't foolproof, either.
Mail appeals should name the intended charity and explain what the charity is doing to remedy the dire straits of which it speaks. Letters should clearly identify that the organization falls into the 501(c)(3) category, Warner said.
Contributions to 501(c)(3) organizations are tax deductible. There's a big difference between groups that claim tax-exempt status and charities whose gifts are tax deductible, Warner said.
People who donate to groups that claim tax-exempt status shouldn't assume they're entitled to deduct those contributions on their taxes. Tax-exempt organizations do not have to pay taxes; tax-deductible organizations entitle donors to write off contributions on their federal income tax returns.
The Better Business Bureau offers valuable information about charitable giving. One of the links to its Web site, www.give.org, offers tips to potential donors.
Steamboat Springs assistant police chief Art Fiebing said police receive complaints every once in a while about suspicious telephone solicitors.
He suggested that people can avoid being fooled into giving to made-up causes by doing their homework before the phone rings.
"Pick out an organization you like, and give to it," he said.
A soft economy will no doubt spur similar fund-raising scams, Warner said.
"I expect that we're going to see more of these phone calls," he said.
People must be wary so they can distinguish between real charities and dishonest individuals looking to make a buck at another's expense.
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