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Tip of the Week

We recently received reports of unlawful solicitors going door-to-door throughout St. Petersburg, asking residents for money.

These patterns seem to increase during the holidays, so here is some information to help you decide whether a solicitor is legitimate.

An unlawful solicitor ...

-Will often knock on your front door at an inconvenient time, such as after dark when you are relaxing at home, or early in the morning - sometimes as early as 4 a.m. These are con men who want to catch you off-guard.

-Often presents a sad story, such as needing money for an auto repair or funds to help a sick, pregnant wife. In a recent case, a man told a homeowner, "My wife needs an asthma inhaler." He asked for $17 to buy one. They often ask for a specific amount to make the story sound more credible.

Recently, a clean-cut man in casual clothing has gone door-to-door in the Uptown neighborhood, soliciting donations for the St. Anthony's Hospital Cancer Fund. St. Anthony's does not participate in door-to-door fund raising.

Legitimate home solicitors must be licensed by the police department according to City Code 17-151. They will carry a department-issued photo identification card. Please note: Registered nonprofit organizations such as the Boy Scouts or a church organization are exempt from this requirement and do not need a permit.

The best advice is to be careful when a stranger knocks on your door. Mostly, these con men only want money, but they could be unpredictable or perhaps hooked on illegal drugs. If you encounter an unlicensed solicitor at your door, report it immediately to the police department.

- William Proffitt, spokesman for the St. Petersburg Police Department