When you receive a phone call from a telemarketer asking for help for some police, fire or public safety organization, your safest course of action is to simply hang up.

At best, the solicitor will probably take the lion's share of your donation. At worst, the caller is an outright fraud.

These groups may call themselves "Friends of the Police," the "Firefighters Support Brigade," or any number of official-sounding names designed to make you think they are associated with your local police or fire departments. They aren't.

In Oregon, consumers recently have been receiving calls from telemarketers who say they are raising money to support first responders in the state engaged in search and rescue. After conducting an investigation, Oregon Attorney General John Kroger reached a settlement with the company making the calls - A Growing Concern, LTD, which was soliciting on behalf of a group called Search and Rescue Charities.

"Search and rescue team members risk their lives to save Oregonians and play a crucial role in public safety," Kroger said. "Oregonians who want to help search and rescue efforts need to know that their donations are going to legitimate charities."

An Oregon Department of Justice investigation uncovered evidence that A Growing Concern repeatedly deceived Oregon consumers, including falsely claiming that donations would support local search and rescue efforts.

The settlement prohibits the companies from operating in Oregon for at least three years and requires A Growing Concern to pay a total of $5,000. The companies could have to pay an additional $20,000 if they violate any terms of the agreement and an additional $25,000 for each violation.