IMMOKALEE -- Collier County Clerk Crystal K. Kinzel is urging residents to exercise caution whenever a stranger knocks on their door, and to refrain from conducting business with door-to-door solicitors who do not have a valid home solicitation permit issued by the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller.
In Florida, it is a crime to solicit door-to-door without a permit. Florida law (Statute 501.021) requires individuals who engage in door-to-door solicitation activities that sell or lease goods or services priced at more than $25, to obtain a permit. In order to obtain a permit, individuals must complete an application at the Clerk’s Office and undergo a criminal background check.
It is best to refrain from opening the door to strangers unless there is a pre-scheduled appointment. However, if you decide to engage with a solicitor, proceed cautiously and ask to see the required permit and government issued identification. If these items are not provided do not engage further, then contact the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at 239-252-9300.
If the solicitor can produce the permit and identification, confirm that the name and photo on the permit match the name and photo on the identification. Also, check that the person in front of you matches the photo. Remember, possession of a valid permit does not ensure that the solicitor will engage in honest and ethical sales practices. If something does not appear to be legitimate, do not engage further.
It is advised that residents follow these strategies anytime a solicitor knocks on the door:
• Never let strangers into your home unless you have a pre-scheduled appointment. Instead, talk through the door and clearly state that you do not do business with door-to-door solicitors. Do not be persuaded to open the door even if the stranger claims he cannot hear you.
• Be on guard for the use of manipulative tactics to gain entry into your home, such as feigning illness or asking to use the restroom. Legitimate solicitors would have prepared for such necessities.
• Be on guard for the “distraction scam.” This scam involves one crook distracting the homeowner’s attention in a conversation while another crook steals jewelry and other valuables, sometimes entering through the back door. Never let strangers into your house, but if you do let them in, do not let them out of your sight. Also, keep doors and windows locked even while at home.
• Be wary of high-pressure sales techniques. Do not be pressured into making a quick decision.
• Be mindful that solicitors are not allowed to falsely represent themselves as current or former members of the military or to mislead anyone into believing that the solicitation is for a charitable organization.
• Consider posting a “No Solicitors” sign on your front door. If there is a homeowner association where you live, check for restrictions on home soliciting.
Remember to trust your instincts. If something about the solicitor at your door does not appear to be legitimate, contact the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at (239) 252-9300. If you feel unsafe, call 9-1-1.
To learn more about home solicitation permits in Collier County, contact Mike Sheffield at 239-252-6879 or Mike.Sheffield@CollierClerk.com.