Be on the Lookout: Soliciting inside institutional buildings

Report instances of soliciting inside public sapces in institutional (MD Anderson or UTHealth Houston) buildings to UT Police at (713) 792-2890.

January 26, 2022
Carla Hulsey Pate

The University of Texas Police at Houston (UT Police) warns our community to be aware of individuals soliciting in public spaces inside MD Anderson and UTHealth Houston buildings.

According to UT Police Capt. Michael Redmond, scammers involved in these types of incidents — while uncommon — target unsuspecting visitors in public spaces at institutional buildings.

Redmond describes a common ruse that a solicitor might employ.

“We’ve had reports of an individual who loudly pretends to talk on the phone about a personal emergency or loss of a family member to gain sympathy from people nearby,” explained Redmond.

In multiple incidents, the same perpetrator has attempted to scam visitors in public spaces out of financial donations.

According to Redmond, the same perpetrator has repeatedly visited institutional buildings, talking loudly on their phone in elevators and in waiting areas.  “This person dresses well, they know the buildings and they have been working this area for years,” said Redmond.  

The perpetrator tugs at the heartstrings attempting to gain sympathy from nearby individuals — often saying they do not have the funds to move the body of a loved one that has passed.

The scammer does not directly ask individuals for money, but instead their targets offer them money voluntarily. Employees call UT Police when a victim happens to see the same scam repeated on another unsuspecting visitor.

While soliciting on public property is legal in some instances in Houston, it is not permitted in public spaces in MD Anderson or UTHealth Houston buildings. (See MD Anderson Institutional Policy ADM0115, Charitable Activities, Charitable Expenditures and Solicitation Policy and UTHealth Houston HOOP Policy 165, Solicitation on Campus).  

If you believe you’ve been a victim, contact UT Police at 713-792-2890.

UT Police routinely patrols public spaces inside MD Anderson and UTHealth Houston buildings. We remind the community to be on the lookout for and report suspicious behavior to the UT Police non-emergency phone number 24/7 at 713-792-2890.

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