Inform yourself about unauthorized solicitors

By Stephanie Youssef

With the warm weather finally setting in on Champaign-Urbana, afternoons on Green Street have never been busier. This increased foot traffic of students and local residents makes campus a great place for those looking to quickly reach large audiences, like solicitors. And because busy areas on our campus can attract such people, we need to be more aware of local laws and regulations that can protect us from being scammed.

Solicitors are people who are generally employed by charities, private corporations and religious organizations to approach people in public and petition for a certain cause. Supporting their cause can mean giving monetary donations, buying goods or becoming a member of their organization.  

Solicitation, as a means of increasing an organization’s profits, is regulated by state and local governments. These are regulations that, thankfully, I’m aware of, and that others should be, too.

On Friday when I was walking home from class, I was stopped by a man on Green Street claiming to represent a charity. I forgot his name, so let’s just call him Tim for now.

He said something to the extent of, “Yeah, I represent a non-for-profit organization that gives magazines to little kids. It helps kids with cancer, my daughter’s in it, which is why I got involved. So we are a charity that goes around trying to get people to buy magazines for little kids.”

He wasn’t making much sense, but I didn’t want to be rude. I wasn’t really in a rush, so I was willing to listen to what Tim had to say. I let him explain what he wanted and what cause he represented, but when he started asking for my name and a check, I asked to see his solicitor’s license.

“Oh no,” he said. “I totally left it in my car.”

Right.

I immediately told Tim to have a good day and kept walking.

All solicitors in the state of Illinois must fill out a form and register for a solicitor’s license with the attorney general’s office before they are able to legally represent a charitable organization.  

If Tim’s unprofessional looking red snapback and sneakers weren’t enough of an indication that he might not have been who he said he was, a notable representative, his inability to show a solicitor’s license was. It told me that he probably wasn’t legally registered as a representative of an organization and steered me away from giving him any money or personal information.

Students might not see the real harm in unauthorized solicitors on campus, but there are big issues that can arise from giving one’s money or personal information to an illegitimate cause. As reported in a February article on CNN Money, incidents of identity fraud claim a new victim every two seconds. With this glaring statistic, no one should hesitate to reject a solicitor for fear of being rude.

Even with someone claiming to advocate for a worthy cause, you have to be critical about exactly where your money and personal information are going.

I’m not saying that one should assume that everyone claiming to represent a charity is lying, but taking everyone’s word at face value can be very problematic. The unfortunate truth is that there are desperate people like Tim out there willing to lie about children with cancer in order to get their hands on some money. There’s no harm in asking to see a solicitor’s license because, if a the person is who they say they are, they will, or at least they should, have one on them. In asking to see it, you’re better safe than sorry.

While it’s a solicitor’s responsibility to carry a license, it’s our responsibility as citizens to know that they are supposed to, We should all educate ourselves about local laws and regulations like this that apply to our daily lives.

We should be informed citizens so we can avoid being scammed and make sure our money and personal information don’t fall into the wrong hands.

Stephanie is a sophomore in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @syoussef22.