Door-to-door alert: Beware of solicitors claiming to be collecting for nonprofits

3:45 PM: We’ve been meaning to publish another reminder about the door-to-door-soliciting laws, as we’re getting reports of questionable solicitors again. Now it’s urgent, as Tom just e-mailed a warning about magazine sellers claiming to be benefiting a local nonprofit – which in turn told Tom they’re not affiliated. The solicitors came to Tom’s house in the 6000 block of 21st SW, and at first he was impressed:

But when we started to get into the money, their demeanor changed, it started to look like THEY were getting the money, not a charity …..and it didn’t feel right. So I gave them checks with the idea I’m gonna check this out then cancel the checks if it doesn’t pan out. Then I contacted “Mary’s Place” (where they said the donations go to). Mary’s Place said it’s a scam that they are being used a lot for this spring, and advised me to file a police report. I cancelled the checks.

Tom forwarded a receipt in the name of “PS Circulation” (many references online) as well as the reply he received from Mary’s Place (which IS a bonafide nonprofit all its own, helping homeless families, with shelters including a new one in White Center, but NOT seeking donations in this way).

Before you even consider opening the door to solicitors – know the rules (we recapped them again here).

9:59 PM: We’ve also heard from another local nonprofit that solicitors are using their name without authorization or connection. West Seattle YMCA (WSB sponsor) executive director Shalimar Gonzales e-mailed us to say a member told her that two solicitors were going door to door “asking for donations for the YMCA … The YMCA does not solicit donations door to door.”

58 Replies to "Door-to-door alert: Beware of solicitors claiming to be collecting for nonprofits"

  • WestSeattleCoug July 25, 2017 (4:07 pm)

    Let’s just hope they don’t wash his checks and then try to forge them through…

  • Mark July 25, 2017 (4:12 pm)

    Absolutely be aware.  I was assaulted by one of these solicitors, and am frustrated the cops did not make an arrest after they apprehended him.

  • newnative July 25, 2017 (4:40 pm)

    I would not give any questionable person anything they could identify me.  Why would anyone do that?

  • Kelly July 25, 2017 (5:12 pm)

    I just got home from a walk and caught a man with an oversized white dress shirt and tie, apparently empty clipboard and a giant backpack casing homes along eastbound Rose between 41st and 39th in Gatewood. I say casing because he stopped what he was doing until I passed with my dog. He then crossed the street and worked the South side of Rose while telling me, “I’m gonna cross the street.” He would stop in his tracks and check his clipboard anytime he saw me looking at him. When he did go up to houses, he would not stay long enough to knock and wait.  I’m guessing he was checking mailboxes. I called 911 and reported suspicious activity. He did not appear to be handing out flyers. He also didn’t go up to every house on that side of the street. 

  • fiz July 25, 2017 (5:27 pm)

    Change account numbers – now!

  • Carol July 25, 2017 (5:32 pm)

    Thanks for the reminder…they hit the 8600 block of Fauntleroy last night.  The gal was quite the talker…I said no.

  • HH in Delridge July 25, 2017 (5:33 pm)

    Well, I fell for it, so neighbors, if you see my name on the list,  shame on me for not Googling before I got my checkbook. The nice young man was selling magazines to be donated to foster group homes, which sounds nice, and the receipt book looked legit.  Now my bank is recommending I change my account numbers because of all of the information a check contains. Learn from my mistake!

  • Deena July 25, 2017 (6:29 pm)

    Oh! One of them attempted to break in to my house today and I have them on video! The guy came right up to my door and tried the handle first. He then knocked. You can clearly see and hear him. He left after the camera alerted him. This was at 4:30pm. 

  • T July 25, 2017 (6:30 pm)

    Thank you for sharing your experience.  We as a neighborhood/ community need to hear these stories and not judge anyone’s behavior.  It takes guts to tell us they were conned. This will help protect someone else. Thank you again neighbor! 

    • Tom July 25, 2017 (9:38 pm)

      They seemed to be too young to be cons.  Outgoing, tattooed, & articulate young people around 23 years old.  I wanted it to be true.

  • Matt July 25, 2017 (7:30 pm)

    Got hit up with this scam tonight at 7 on the 9100 block off Delridge. Girl was selling magazines, and when I said i don’t need anymore reading material, went to some sob story that she needed money. I referenced this article that I had skimmed, and she bounced at that point, swearing as she left.

  • sbre July 25, 2017 (8:06 pm)

    Where is your home DEENA?

    • Deena July 25, 2017 (9:41 pm)

      8400 Delridge block. 

  • felixswan2 July 25, 2017 (8:14 pm)

    They came to my door as well. The woman had a long story about how this would help her family and children, and said I had nothing to loose by buying magazines to help out foster kids and homeless families in need. It did not feel right, and she was extremely aggressive.  I could tell she was trying to guilt me into giving money, which doesn’t sit well with me. When I politely told her I wasn’t interested, she was very rude, so I knew I had made a right decision not giving my information or money. I would say listen to your gut.

  • West Coast Nomad July 25, 2017 (8:17 pm)

    Thank you to everyone who shared their stories. It’s good for our neighbors to be aware. I got a call today at the nonprofit where I work to report suspicious fundraising activities, supposedly on our behalf. So if it doesn’t feel right, send the person away or ask the person to wait while you call to check in with the charity. 

    Also, I recently had a check stolen out of the mail (I dropped it off in a drive by post office mailbox so this further concerns me) and the check was fraudulently endorsed and deposited. I am now dealing with having to get a new account, rerouting automatic payments, police reports and the like–and have still not been reimbursed yet by the bank after weeks…so I also recommend guarding your checks as if they are cash. Be safe, everyone. 

  • flimflam July 25, 2017 (8:18 pm)

    I won’t entertain any solicitors of any sort – political (even if it is something I would agree with), scams, magazine sales, century link, etc. I try to politely end the conversation before it can really start, and if they continue talking over me I raise my voice slightly, reinforce my original rebuttal, and very abruptly end all proceedings. 

    • WSB July 25, 2017 (9:27 pm)

      We don’t open the door *but* I should add that police advise – in case it’s people casing and NOT solicitors – making sure that if someone knocks, you let them know you’re home. You can tell them “no thank you” through the closed door, for example, or if you don’t want to directly engage, you can stand near the door and pretend to be shouting something at someone else in the house (“hey, aren’t you going to answer the phone”) etc. And if you think they’re trying the door … yell that you’re calling police.

      • Deena July 25, 2017 (9:46 pm)

        I have video of the male coming right up to my door and attempting to enter my house by trying the handle before he knocked. This is casing/prowling. He was alerted by my camera. 

        • Montaba Robinson July 26, 2017 (9:37 pm)

          Can i plz see the video cause i think its the same guy 

  • millie July 25, 2017 (9:21 pm)

    same individual was making the rounds in Arbor Heights on Friday afternoon.  If they are “casing homes for future break-ins” you and your neighbors should contact the police department.

    • Deena July 25, 2017 (10:26 pm)

      I called the police minutes after it happened. I told them I had video. Haven’t heard back. I’d like WSB to post the video. 

      • WSB July 25, 2017 (10:37 pm)

        I just replied to your e-mail – certainly you can send the video or a link, but it sounds like a Crime Watch report of a possible burglary attempt, not necessarily a solicitor, unless you saw something (uniform? clipboard?) that led you to believe they were posing as one. – TR

        • Deena July 26, 2017 (8:29 am)

          Good morning, 

          I just saw your reply… I just emailed the video to you.  Let me know if you need anything else!

          Thanks for your help!

  • clinker July 25, 2017 (9:35 pm)

    A 20-something gave me  a very long story about Paragon magazine door-to-door sales, etc. It sounded exactly like this article from The Atlantic. She was dressed in a strange old fashioned country dress and didn’t seem dishonest, just roped into a hopeless quasi-legal scam.

  • Swede. July 25, 2017 (10:11 pm)

    It’s 2017, why do checks still excist!?  Been by far the most common and easiest way to con people out of money in modern history. 

  • Jonny Wheels July 25, 2017 (10:35 pm)

    Dang.  She was a smooth talker though.  I’m going back to my 100% “no thank you” policy even if it’s something I believe in and care about.  

  • Trickycoolj July 25, 2017 (10:43 pm)

    If anyone asks me for a check these days I ask for their mailing address and add them through BECU bill pay.  Did the same with Wells Fargo.  Bill Pay is free through your bank and you can add any individual you want.  The bank will cut an electronic check and send it just as fast as you can send one in the mail. No need to have a checkbook these days.  I haven’t updated the address on my checks in over 6 years and don’t intend to ever order any again.  Magazine guy came a year or more ago in High Point, wouldn’t take no for an answer and didn’t understand what house poor means.  Even more amusing they were also canvassing Seattle Housing Authority rentals in High Point… maybe do some research next time someone flies you here from St Louis, we aren’t all Microsoft and Amazon billionaires! LOL

    • ACG July 26, 2017 (7:56 am)

      Hey TCJ- thanks for the post. Can those checks be “washed”?  Do they contain your bank account info?  I’ve been wondering myself if that might be a less compromising way to use a check in the few times that I need them. Thx!

      • Trickycoolj July 26, 2017 (8:20 am)

        They’re printed by a computer from the bank so no they can’t be washed, looks like a professional check like a paper paycheck. They still have routing and account numbers, unfortunately can’t get away from that. 

  • nett July 25, 2017 (11:26 pm)

    They came to my house and used a scam that was used in Kent when I lived there. Thankfully I dont have a dime to my name and I said that. She left very promptly. We used to have these folks in Kent all the time, but the “program” offered the solicitors vacations and not a cash prize. Scam, definatly. She did use another name with me, but I dont remember what she said. 

  • Highland park neighbor July 26, 2017 (12:25 am)

    Hi, They were knocking on doors on Holden in Highland Pk. around 10 pm tonite, selling for a company called Paragon Sales. Left in a large white van.

  • Justducky July 26, 2017 (1:37 am)

    The ‘magazine guy’ stopped by the house a few months back, he was a pitiful smooth talker and my SO fell for it despite me giving him the ‘eye’ as he asked if I had cash. I called the number on the receipt we were given, disconnected. I looked up the address, it was fake. I then called 911 to report the guy, and the operator cut me off and said “it’s not illegal to scam people for money, if he was pointing a gun in your face you can make a report” 

  • unknown July 26, 2017 (4:39 am)

    This “act” has been around since the late 70’s (maybe earlier) I worked at an Airport Hotel in housekeeping back then and these kids would be  “trucked” in, in large groups and then dropped off in neighborhoods to sell magazines, cleaning products… There were 6 to8 of them in rooms with just two beds, they left early in the morning and came back late, it was sad. Most of these kids came from “bad” homes (talked to a few of them) and they had no where else to turn. I’m not saying this is true today but just saying.

    But again as some others say “do not give them a check” or any money at all because more than likely you will never see a single magazine.

  • Enid July 26, 2017 (6:04 am)

    Guy in a baggy white shirt and black slacks was dropped off in Arbor Heights Saturday evening.  He went to my neighbor’s door (they’re out of town) looked through the peephole, window, and checked all around the front door- including under the mat.  He then danced down the street, apparently avoiding houses where residents were obviously at home.

    • Double Dub Resident July 26, 2017 (8:51 pm)

      So you saw all that happening. Did you call the police? 

  • Double Dub Resident July 26, 2017 (6:09 am)

    Here’s how to make it easy and this is what I do. 

    Put up a No Solicitors sign on your door. If someone comes to the door, soliciting anything (that includes political signatures, religion, etc.)  point to the sign and tell them it says no soliciting and close your door without giving them a chance to respond. 

    NEVER EVER give a check!! Not only can they wash it and make it for far more money, they now have your account and routing number at the bottom of the check! 

    Same for a credit card, especially if they ask for the 3 digit code on the back! 

    Best case scenario is cash, cause at least if people are going to make a dumb decision (and it is in this day in age of the media telling the public over and over and yet over again about scams) to give money, they’re only out that cash. 

    And also since we’re on scams, never answer your phone if you don’t know the number, and never answer it and answer the person’s question like can you hear me? Because they are trying to get you to say yes and super impose that as some sort of permission that will cost you in some way. 

    And the “they seemed so convincing or they didn’t seen like scammers is naive. Of course they’re supposed to be convincing! That is their job so to speak. 

    Your best defense is to not even give these POS a chance. Just make sure if they do come to your door to let them know someone is home. 

  • Wsresident July 26, 2017 (7:11 am)

    My husband is a total sucker, he fell for this the last time a “magazine” salesman came to the door- but man, even for me a total skeptic he had his game on tight! A woman came by or house 5900 block of 36th Saturday night (weird day to come) and I was in the process of dealing with a screaming child, I opened the door and what’s weird is this girl was hiding around the corner- never showed her face when she rang the bell and said hello. I yelled it wasn’t a good time and slammed the door and she cursed at me as she walked away. 

  • Rose parsons July 26, 2017 (7:42 am)

    These people come by my house on the 8000 block of 25th ave. Sw almost every week. I have seen the same 2 people walk up and down my block for literally 8 hours. They would come up to my door and knock multiple times a day. I answered the door once and they went off about this cable that doesn’t exist that’s better than Comcast that I should buy and give them my credit card info. I told them no for  5 mins over and over, and she would not stop talking so I closed the door in her face. There’s  a lot of people scamming in west Seattle. Don’t answer your door for anyone but the Girl Scouts. Period.  most charities will not come up to your door and ask for money. They might if it’s a local church. But pretty much every single person whose trying to “sell” you something or get “donations” is a scam. Ask for their employers phone number and bosses name and call them while they’re at your door step, chances are they’ll run away as soon as you ask for the company’s info.

  • Highland Park July 26, 2017 (8:39 am)

    I’m embarrassed to admit I’m on of the people who fell for this last night. I should have paid attention too my gut but I’m new to the area and this was a first for me. 

    Any people who have been in the same shoes have tips on how to handle the existing “transaction”? I’ve already cancelled the “order” and also my check, but worried they’ll come back or something when they find out. 

  • seaopgal July 26, 2017 (9:39 am)

    My immediate answer is, “I’m sorry, we are not receiving guests today.” It startles most solicitors/petitioners/evangelists enough to stop the spiel and allow me to close the door graciously. And if not, I close it anyway. Honestly, don’t ever feel bad about just saying no. If you’re already giving whatever you can to the causes you believe in, that is enough. And you’re not responsible for their choices or reactions.

  • Double Dub Resident July 26, 2017 (10:01 am)

    Also people, if you feel in your gut it is wrong, chances are it is. Call the police if you’re suspicious. It seems that there are so many people who are afraid to “offend” someone, which is exactly how these POS scammers like it and this is how they can continue to get away with it. 

    If I think it’s a scam, I have my cell phone with me, set on camera and will take a pic and call it in. 

    People need to stop being so naive and also stop trying to be so politically/socially correct about not wanting to hurt another’s feelings. This is how criminals like this make their money. 

    Personally I never even entertain people soliciting out in front of stores either, unless it is Real Change or the Girl Scouts and that’s always cash. 

    There is nothing to be ashamed of, of not wanting to give out your personal information or tell people no. Man, guilt is a heck of a drug.

  • EH July 26, 2017 (10:44 am)

    We noticed a man smoking and standing next to our driveway as we pulled up after work (around 5:30pm) a couple weeks back. He was startled that we were driving up, he put out his cigarette on our driveway and we asked him if we could help him. He then asked if we lived here, and he went into a spiel about collecting money for homeless organizations, and that he himself was once homeless. Had a clipboard and backpack. We happened to be in a rush for something so we said not today, and he moved on without issue.  A couple days later, we saw the same guy hanging out on the steps down to Fairmount Park, just sitting and smoking again. It was strange, hadn’t seen him since. Alert your neighbors of these instances, as it prevents others from being scammed!

  • Mark July 26, 2017 (11:50 am)

    Just added a No Soliciting sign to my house.  Hope this deters unwanted solicitors

    • Double Dub Resident July 27, 2017 (4:54 am)

      It won’t deter everyone, but you just need to point to the sign when people still come up and tell them that sign says no soliciting

  • KS July 26, 2017 (12:28 pm)

    I am so glad I came across this post. We gave a gentleman two nights ago a check for $50 for magazines. We donated the magazines to The Boys and Girl Club… or so we thought. My husband is a very generous man and the gentlemen gave us a huge sob story how we wants to get off the streets, each magazine order gives him a bonus, etc. He had a bet with his sponsor to get 8 orders in one day and he would receive some cool shoes. Oh wow! Cancelled the check! Crap, now he has our names and addresses. Grrrr We live in Gatewood. 

  • waikikigirl July 26, 2017 (2:03 pm)

    Some guy with a clipboard came by our house on Tuesday and before he got into his song and dance I said “before you go any further I’m not interested, thank you”  and he turned away and went up the street. 

    That’s all you got to do, nothing more nothing less.

  • A & R July 26, 2017 (2:31 pm)

    We were just now solicited in the Gatewood area.  Glad I checked around first.

  • David July 26, 2017 (4:31 pm)

    Someone from ps circulation came to my house claiming to be collecting donations for nonprofits but couldn’t give any contact information. Something seemed off and looked up the company and saw this post. 

  • Aaron July 26, 2017 (5:20 pm)

    Does anyone have a picture of them.  We had a couple down our dead end street looking like sales but didn’t stop at any doors and left when my neighbors car drove up.  We nabbed a couple of pictures from our security cameras 

  • Pete July 26, 2017 (8:06 pm)

    I just fell for this as well. A young woman named Erica came to my door on 18th SW in Puget Ridge. Receipt says PS Circulation, which, as mentioned above, has been in this business a long time. I didn’t want the magazines, but elected to purchase the “educational” ones that would then be sent to the juvenile detention center. My concern is that at least some of these door-to-door solicitors are earnestly and honestly trying to get out of dire circumstances, and are not themselves the scam artists. Certainly it appears that many have had encounters with aggressive solicitors, and that cannot be dismissed. Additionally, it appears that most of the salespeople are people of color. I am further concerned that the racial bias against people of color that has been socialized into every American (all races included) further exacerbates the suspicion we have of solicitors. That’s not to advocate for gullibility (though I just fell for it), but rather to recognize that it’s likely the company and bosses, not the door-to-door people, who we should be frustrated with. If I were to do this whole interaction over, I would have been kind, personable, and encouraging to the salesperson, but would not have grabbed my checkbook.

    • Kdub July 27, 2017 (9:07 am)

      I completely agree and appreciate that you made this point. This young woman seemed earnest and not aggressive, if anything, she became a bit flustered at my house and seemed thirsty. Her vulnerability is what made me listen to her rather than telling her to bug off. I too would encourage people to be considerate and personable but firm in their decision to not contribute. 

    • SWinWS July 29, 2017 (4:01 pm)

      I believe these people, in general, are kids trying to earn a living under the umbrella of predatory companies that are the true scammers.  Most of us take out our aggression or suspicion on the lower level people (many of are taken advantage of themselves by these companies).  We were approached 2 separate times (today in Shorewood) within 10 mins, first by a young woman (whom I gave $20 as a donation to her personally and then later, by a man and woman by the same company–PS Circulation, LLC.)  I refused to buy into the scams and mentioned that I have no verification of its legitimacy and I am not keen on cash/check operations from non-local groups/operations–based from my past experience and my research of such operations.   Also, I would encourage people to donate to our existing local charities (Mary’s Place) and needs that have reputable local operations that help to those directly in our community.  Thanks for keeping us connected WSB!

  • M July 26, 2017 (10:35 pm)

    A 20’s-something woman knocked on my door last night saying she was selling magazines for Paragon and described it as an agency/program to help young adults like her get jobs and back on their feet. I declined the offer and she then tried to get me to buy magazines to donate to youth in various social service programs. I declined again and she moved on. She was friendly and non-aggressive the whole time, but my gut told me something was up.

  • Dan July 28, 2017 (2:33 pm)

    A man just came by the 6600 block on High Point Dr SW. 37 man who says he just got out of rehab and this program is helping him stay out. The long spiel. This must be his first time out as the story came with a good number of holes. Used a neighbor’s name as his “sponsor” and the name is not correct. Then the money story went from the program to him and really good sales so far to just good enough.   

    He was courteous and stood back from the door in a way to not be alarming. No hard sell, at all. Wish him luck but these companies exploiting workers this way should really be dealt with. 

  • S July 28, 2017 (9:00 pm)

    I had two men come to my house last week in the Junction trying to sell magazines.  The first one was scared off by my large dog barking at him and then the second one showed up an hour later with a story about being a reformed gang member and asking if I believed in second chances. They both said they were selling magazine packages for local charities.  He spent a lot of time when I opened the door, I could tell was trying to get a feel for how nice my dog is. I simply told him I wasn’t interested and he left but they came around again the very next day.  I captured all three of their visits on camera as well. 

  • Josh B. August 9, 2017 (5:12 pm)

    It’s been a while on this, but they’re still around as of 8/7.  I just had this same scam happen to me down by Lincoln Park.  African American girl in her early 20s gave me the same story about trying to get points to hopefully some day have a house in a neighborhood like mine, magazines going to Mary’s Place, or Boys & Girls Club, etc.  I saw Paragon something or other on her laminated papers that she showed me.  I told her our family has a limited donation budget and I don’t make donation decisions without my wife and couldn’t do it because she wasn’t home at the time.  She was visibly irritated when she left, but I didn’t notice any other suspicious behavior.   I guess in hindsight I shouldn’t have given her any details at all, but I was caught off guard.

  • JB August 10, 2017 (7:34 pm)

    Same person as Dan saw tonight. “Paragon Sales” laminated flyer. Man claiming to be 37 and just out of rehab. Was polite but  could tell quickly that I wasn’t going to participate, then expressed frustration that I wasn’t going to. Grumbled to himself as he stormed off. I’m on 31st between Holden and Thistle. 

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