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Young solicitors may pose a new type of fraud

Residents living near the library and high school came together last week to spread the news of a scam taking place in the neighborhood.

According to local resident Elizabeth Parker, who encountered the scam artist, a young woman in her late teens or early 20s has been knocking on doors soliciting for donations to different causes.

Parker said the young woman had a different story for each house and would tell the home owner they were recommended by their neighbor, who the woman had previously spoken to. Parker said the woman was in her neighborhood for a day and in surrounding streets for two additional days.

“It’s quite clever what this girl did,” Parker said. “We were able to find out she was giving a different story each time and we became suspicious. What surprised me the most was the young girl’s age. She was young enough to make us feel safe.”

Parker said the scammer told folks she was raising money to make care packages for soldiers serving in Iraq, among other things. She also asked for cash.

Many residents were immediately suspicious of the woman,.they They feared some elderly neighbors would become victims of the scam. Parker called the police and was told the city could not ban solicitors on Mercer Island because a court ruling protects it.

Police cannot make an arrest until a fraud has occurred. Police Chief Ed Holmes said concerned residents should call the police if they suspect a supposed solicitor is engaging in fraud.

In 2006, there were 68 cases of fraud on Mercer Island, according to the city’s Web site. Last October, police sought public assistance in an attempt to catch a burglar posing as a solicitor on the Island. According to one of the victims, the man walked around the neighborhood posing as a roofing salesman. In the middle of the day, he entered the victim’s home through her open garage while she worked in the front yard, stealing her purse and some jewelry.

Parker hopes similar thefts will be prevented by reminding residents of such scams. She also wants Islanders to know young people also take advantage of others.

“It’s the same scam with the newest culprit,” she said.

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