Beware of Fire Department donation phone scam

Published 1:34 am Sunday, February 22, 2009

People operating phone scams use a variety of ways to entice people to relinquish financial information.

One scam that has been reported twice in the past three months involves people asking for donations to a local fire department.

The most recent report of this kind of scam involves the Picayune Fire Department. Fire Chief Keith Brown said a county resident recently called his department and reported she had received just such a call.

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Donna Tarter said the call came to her house Thursday night where the caller told her husband he had pledged to donate $25 to the Picayune Fire Department back in November. When Tarter’s husband asked her about it she took the phone, thinking it was a local volunteer fire department she usually donates to. The caller got irate with Tarter, demanding payment now. At that point Tarter said she asked to speak to a supervisor. That was when the female caller hung up, Tarter said.

Even though the caller never got to a point where financial information was requested from Tarter, she said she believes the call to be part of a scam.

“I knew it wasn’t right. I never had one call and ask for money like a debt collector,” Tarter said.

Brown said when the Picayune Fire Department does conduct fund raisers, they never call people’s homes. Usually the fund raiser is announced ahead of time at a city council meeting, where they request clearance from the council. if it is approved it is published in the paper. Typically the Fire Department uses boot drives to raise any funds they may need for causes, Brown said.

“We sure don’t ask for credit cards or anything like that,” Brown said.

Citizens who are asked for money in what seems to be a scam should decline to donate, and then call the local fire department or other agency for which the caller says the request is being made. Such calls should also be reported to the Picayune Police Department, Brown said.

In December, Nicholson Fire Chief Bobby Robbins reported a similar scam was taking place in his district. He also said his department does not seek donations in that manner.