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    No, it's not Girl Scout cookie time; beware

    By Times staff writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 31, 2002

    The call came in to the headquarters of the Girl Scouts of Suncoast Council late Monday afternoon. The woman on the phone, a former Girl Scout, said she had been approached by a woman who tried to sell her Girl Scout cookies in front of an Albertson's grocery store in Hudson. The woman at the store had no cookies but was accepting money.

    The caller thought there was something wrong. There was.

    The Girl Scouts don't take money in advance for cookies, said Felicia Johnson, communications manager for the Girl Scouts of Suncoast Council, which represents Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties. And the annual cookie program doesn't begin until January.

    "This kind of thing happens a couple of times a year before the cookie sale begins," Johnson said. "Unethical people are trying to cash in."

    The caller, who left only her first name, didn't give the woman any money, but Johnson said the Girls Scouts are discussing whether to alert police "so we don't have this sort of thing going on again."

    "We want to remind people that the girls don't accept money in advance. And if they don't have the cookies there, don't give them money. The cookies don't come in until late February."

    Johnson added that she's heard similar stories from other states, including a case where a young man dressed in a Girl Scout uniform and tried to sell cookies.

    Orders for Girl Scout cookies begin Jan. 10, 2003, but no money should be paid in advance. Delivery of cookies and direct sales at area businesses begin Feb. 23. The sale ends March 16.

    For information about the Girl Scouts of Suncoast Council's annual cookie program, call (813) 281-4475, (727) 447-3350, or 1-800-881-4475.

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