Holy Scams! Have A Wary Christmas

Police and Catholic Church officials want you to know two things:

1) When in doubt, you don't have to give.

2) Real priests don't sell holy water.

Those truths came to light after well-dressed young men sought donations in Wallingford this week, offering Christmas cards, snow-scene paperweights and bottles of what they said was holy water.

Theresa McCullough was suspicious of the two men at her door when they claimed to be Catholic priests but were not wearing Roman collars. They showed her their merchandise and asked for a donation.

She phoned the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle and Seattle police.

"It certainly doesn't sound like something priests would do. . . . Holy water is never sold," said Kay Lagreid, archdiocese spokeswoman.

She said the archdiocese had no knowledge of any door-to-door solicitation being done by priests.

Officers from Seattle's North Precinct contacted the men, who told police they were collecting for "the church" but denied they had actually claimed to be priests.

Solicitors for churches and charities are not required to carry licenses or identification, according to the state attorney general's consumer-protection office.

A statement from Attorney General Christine Gregoire and Secretary of State Ralph Munro said most Christmas-season solicitors are from reputable charities that deserve support, but warns that people concerned about the legitimacy of solicitors should ask whether the charity is registered with the state, how the money is used and what portion of contributions go to the group's programs.