Thursday at 8:15 p.m. was rough enough. I had three children scrambling around upstairs, sneaking out of bed for their "justs," "Just a glass of water," "Just have to go to bathroom." Just. Just. Just. Then the doorbell rang. My guard was up, but only because they were two males, early 20s, holding pamphlets, standing on my front porch. This was not what I wanted to deal with, but I am a people pleaser, a kind person and, apparently, a sucker.

They put me immediately at ease assuring me they were not selling anything. They were "just" neighbors and wanted a minute of my time. They were good. They opened up a discussion, appealed to my charitable side, mentioned specific neighbors and streets, and I lowered my guard. They observed and listened and created a story to entice me. I wanted to believe them. I wanted to help. Within two minutes they knew I had been a social studies teacher and hence they were dean's list local college students raising funds for a London internship with BBC. At my neighbor's house they were a baseball team looking for funding for a championship game. I'm guessing my neighbor was wearing a baseball hat or jersey.

While they were convincing, there were clues that this was not legitimate. They never gave specific names, showed no identification and offered an out-of-date receipt for selling magazines, telling me their new receipts had not arrived and the magazines were from their last fund-raiser. Moreover, the pamphlet was their only copy, and laminated sloppily at that. Yet I still sat there listening and answering questions.

They offered nothing for me to keep short of the incorrect receipt and a fuzzy memory that they wanted the check payable to something like Collective Community Service. I did not give money, but don't give me credit yet. I didn't give them money because they wanted a minimum check donation of $75, not cash. I was willing to lose $5 cash to get them off my porch.

I was upset all night wondering if it was a scam and thinking about my neighbors, since his envelope of checks was pretty thick. I called the college the next day and confirmed that such a program did not exist as the boys had claimed. The whole thing was a scam. I immediately called the police and confessed my naivety. Both State Police officers I spoke with told me to not feel guilty about buying their story. After all, these traveling scam artists know what they are doing.

Next time I will be saying no, not opening the door wide, and notifying the authorities. Saying no does not mean I'm not charitable. I can still donate money, but I have to be cautious.

Scams like this are all too common. I've learned these scam artists come into an area for a day or two, spread out their "salespeople," and then move on out. They could be selling magazines, asking for your support for a competition, offering landscaping, roofing or even driveway paving. You don't know who to trust, but there are always ways to get what they are selling in a slower, more legitimate way, even from them if they are sincere and willing to wait for you to contact them later while you investigate.

I just hope an experience like this does not discourage me from taking advantage of other opportunities at my front door, namely Boy Scout kettle corn or Girl Scout Thin Mints. The door is still open, just not so wide and welcoming as before.

Krissie Dollmann-Miranda of East Amherst, a mother and teacher, also was fooled by scam artists.