Bryan Cohen Sep. 17, 2013, 6:45pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline) -- Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Secretary of State Kim Wyman warned consumers Monday about a scam in which individuals solicit donations near retail stores on behalf of charities.

More and more solicitors are starting to ask for charitable donations outside of retail stores.

The solicitors usually set up a table at a store entrance or exit, asking for small cash, check, debit card or credit card donations in return for small trinkets.

While the solicitors say that donations will go toward various charitable purposes, such as helping battered women, disabled children or animals, Ferguson's office alleges the solicitors personally pocket most of the money.

"Unfortunately, not all solicitors are reputable," the attorney general said in a statement. "Check before giving to a charity so you can confirm your money is going to help a good cause, not line someone's wallet."

Many of the alleged practices by the solicitors are in violation of the Charitable Solicitations Act and the Consumer Protection Act. In addition, most charities need to register with Wyman's Charities Program.

Ferguson and Wyman recently submitted a jointly signed letter to Washington retailers to alert them of the questionable solicitations. The letter asked retailers to alert Ferguson's Consumer Protection Division of any suspicious solicitation activity near their stores.

In February, Ferguson's office filed a lawsuit against one such solicitor for alleged charitable solicitation violations.

Joseph Searles and Rena Searles allegedly violated the Charitable Solicitations Act in their solicitations for Autism Awareness United. Ferguson's office reached a consent decree with the Searles later that month.

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