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Scam seeks funds for bullet-proof vests

Posted on February 9, 2009 - Filed Under Body Armor |

DOBSON — The Surry County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a telephone scam in which money is being solicited to provide bullet-proof vests for county officers.

“This is not the first time this has come up,” Sheriff Graham Atkinson said Tuesday. “This is something that has come up about once a year for the past four years.”

The most recent scam came to light Tuesday afternoon when a concerned citizen notified the sheriff’s office to report receiving such a call. “We actually had two calls really close together,” said Atkinson, who said this indicates an active campaign operating in the area.

Based on what authorities know so far, the solicitations are being conducted by a white male, possibly 30 to 40 years old, who is seeking $12 donations for the protective vests.

His approach includes telling the potential donor that information about the campaign will be mailed, with the would-be contributor being told to mail back the $12 after the information is received.

The sheriff stressed that his department is not calling citizens for donations for bullet-proof vests. For one thing, county officers are fully outfitted with all the vests they need at present, and this generally is not something the public would be approached about otherwise, Atkinson said.

“Our vests are provided through county funds,” he said. “We don’t have to beg for equipment like this. Our commissioners just provide it.”

He suspects that whoever is responsible might be traveling from community to community to run the scam, or simply targeting specific areas. If the responsible party is from out of town, authorities are hoping to make the visit here so unsuccessful that further ones will not occur in Surry County in the future.

The sheriff added that he is concerned Surry Countians who frequently give freely to support worthy causes might be taken in by such a scam that professes to protect law enforcement personnel.

Anyone who receives a call of this nature is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 401-8900. Citizens also are advised not to give out personal information to a stranger over the telephone.

The fact that such a campaign is conducted by phone should raise a red flag, said Atkinson, who added that most such efforts occur by mail or through personal contacts. If business owners or others receive a call seeking a contribution, “it’s probably not going to be legitimate,” he said.

Atkinson said the only annual solicitations sought by his department are for a Christmas fund and a calendar campaign. In such cases, citizens normally receive requests in writing which bear the sheriff’s office letterhead.

Other solicitations occasionally are conducted one-to-one. “Sometimes we ask for D.A.R.E. T-shirts and things like that,” the sheriff said.

Anyone conducting such a scheme that is not legitimate is subject to being arrested and charged with larceny by trick.

Local citizens who might already have sent checks for the bullet-proof vest scam are advised to stop payment on them.

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