Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fire officials warn residents of phone scam


Local residents are being warned that a phone solicitation drive purporting to raise money for Santa Barbara firefighters is a scam.
Capt. Pat McElroy, president of the Santa Barbara Firefighters Association, said the city fire department has been receiving calls and complaints from residents about telemarketers asking for credit card numbers in order to make donations to local firefighters.

“It’s a total scam,” he said. “We’re not doing anything like that.”
In the past few days, city fire officials have received about 10 calls from concerned citizens, many of them relatives of firefighters or those with a connection to the fire department. Capt. McElroy said he spent the day on the phone trying to get the word out.
“What concerns us is them getting the credit card numbers of these people,” he said.
County fire department officials echoed concerns about the phone scam, acknowledging they are also getting phone calls about a group soliciting cash and credit card donations in the name of local firefighters.
“While we are grateful to the community for their unwavering support, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department does not and will not contact you soliciting donations,” Capt. Eli Iskow said in a news release. “…Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous individuals who will take advantage of the goodness of others as they try to line their own pockets with money.”
In addition to being “completely bogus,” fire officials said those involved with the scheme are particularly aggressive. Capt. McElroy received an email from a Los Angeles firefighter whose mother, a local resident, reportedly received five calls in one day.
“When they don’t agree to give, the people have gotten hostile,” Capt. McElroy said.
Capt. McElroy said similar solicitation scams have occurred in the past, although it has been a while since the last one. He said the worst example occurred following the death of a local firefighter in 1999.
“Within a week, we had telemarketers who were saying they were raising money for his widow’s psychological treatment because nobody was taking care of her,” he said. “We actually got those guys.”
Fire officials said the firefighters association doesn’t conduct fundraising operations over the phone and directed those who wish to donate to city firefighters to the association’s website, Capt. McElroy and Capt. Iskow also suggested giving to the Santa Barbara Firefighters Alliance, a registered nonprofit that often supplies local fire departments with equipment.
Capt. McElroy expressed hope that local residents will get the message about the phone scam and not give out personal information if someone calls asking for donations to firefighters.
“We have a good relationship with the people of Santa Barbara,” he said. “We don’t want to do anything to mess with that trust.”
Local residents are urged to ask for contact numbers, names or other information from anyone soliciting donations over the phone, Capt. Iskow said, and turn that information over to local law enforcement.


Greg Knowles said...

I'll be waiting for their call. I would love to help catch some of these folks.

Anonymous said...

Give them a false card number and exp. date. When they go to run it, the alarms will be set off and documented. Make'm leave a trail....