Tis’ the season for solicitations: Be wary, police urge

Door-to-door solicitor in Juanita area raises questions

Juanita resident Kelly Stevens was feeling in the spirit of giving when a woman knocked on her door Monday.

The woman, who identified herself as a volunteer, said she was selling teddy bears for $10 each to raise money for a girl who had been injured in a car accident in Kirkland.

“She said a young girl … was hit by a 19-year-old, uninsured driver, on a big road,” recalled Stevens, adding that the woman mentioned someone had donated 300 teddy bears to the injured girl’s family, and the woman was helping the family sell the bears to raise money for the girl’s medical care.

Stevens purchased a teddy bear and said when her daughter went to school the next day, her 6th grade class at Hellen Keller Elementary was abuzz about the injured girl. She said it sounded like the woman had went to several other homes as well.

Stevens made the call to find out if the Reporter had any information about the alleged injured girl.

“I should have asked for the woman’s name, but I didn’t think about it,” Stevens said, adding that if the incident was a scam, “I would feel pretty played upon because we were in the spirit of Thanksgiving, my daughter was like, ‘Come on, mom.’ I would feel pretty disappointed.”

In an e-mail, Juanita resident Atsuko Patzwald said the same solicitor had gone to her house as well on Monday, Nov. 24.

Patzwald asked the woman if there was a place she could donate to, as she didn’t have any cash on hand.

“The lady said, ‘Oh, I don’t know. I’m just volunteering. If you can’t help, that’s okay … Then she left,” she said, adding the woman appeared to be in her 40s.

According to Bill Hamilton, Kirkland Police Department captain, the alleged injured girl’s name did not turn up on a search of the department’s records management system. He said it’s possible the alleged car accident could have happened in the nearby unincorporated King County, however police officials in the precinct that covers that area also said the name didn’t turn up in a records search dating back five years.

Hamilton said regardless if the solicitor was legitimate or not, residents should be wary of people asking for donations.

“It’s not unusual this time of year for people soliciting door to door and it’s not always legitimate,” he said. “(Scams) seem to happen more often during the holidays when people are more apt to give and when the economy is down, so this is a bad combination for scams.”

To do any soliciting or canvassing in the city of Kirkland, a business license is required, said Gloria Martin, a city licensing clerk. King County does not require solicitors to have a business license.

If faced with a door-to-door solicitor, Hamilton urged residents to ask for identification.

“If you’re in doubt of their legitimacy, ask for a phone number to confirm and ask for an address to mail a donation as opposed to in person,” he said. “This allows you to end contact in a non-confrontational manner and, if you do confirm the individual or organization, still have an avenue to make a donation.”

Also, contact the police department if you suspect fraud or feel uncomfortable with a door-to-door or phone solicitor, he added.