Although giving is good, law enforcement officials say the holiday season is a golden time to "GET...GOT" by scam artists. While legitimate charities such as the Salvation Army use this time to solicit much needed donations, investigators say many others often do the same but instead for personal gain.
"This time of year everyone is wanting to give and make people happy and the emotions of this time of the year makes people weak and sometime they don't suspect people when they should," says Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie.
So, when should you suspect someone of fraud? Sheriff Sollie says always at least at first!
"You'll find out about 90 percent of the times if somebody says that they are hungry and you say, 'come on, I'll go buy you a burger or sandwich or meal,' they'll decline that. Many times people that are homeless want the money not for food," says Sollie.
On Friday we received reports of a man with a child asking for gas money in the downtown business district and also in the parking lot at Wal-Mart. Although law enforcement officials say they don't know if this was a gimmick, they say there are ways to ensure that you don't “GET…GOT!”
"Be sure of who you're talking to," says Sheriff Sollie. "Make sure that they are truly in need before you dish out money."
Other suggestions include when it comes to someone needing food, offer to buy it and bring it back to them. As for the request for gas money, Sollie says you should offer to follow the person to a gas station and pay for the gas after they fill up.
Finally, "If you're suspicious of someone," says Sollie, "give us a call. We'll be glad to come out and make sure that they are truly in need. There are groups located here in Lauderdale County if someone is truly in need of shelter, food or clothing. They can be contacted."