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Article Archive >> Business

Tips For Consumers: Calls from "Police" or "Firefighters"

Tips For Consumers
Calls from "Police" or "Firefighters"

We all appreciate our local police and firefighters in the Hagerstown area, right? But what happens when you get a phone call asking money to help them? Such calls may be legitimate, but more often the caller is a professional solicitor paid a high commission to get your donation.
Law enforcement callers use an official-sounding organization name that could easily mislead you. They are friendly but firm and give the impression they are police officers themselves (probably not). They often claim, "you gave last year and we're counting on you again " even when you didn't.
The traditional "police" phone pitch asks money to help widows and orphans of officers killed in the line of duty. Others claim your "donation" will buy important equipment-bulletproof vests or breathalyzers, for example. Actually, both these stories are suspect because most of your money just pays the fees and commissions of the professional fundraiser. Despite what they may tell you, most of your donation is probably not tax-deductible.
Two other approaches used are:
1) The request that you sponsor an "ad" in a police or firefighter magazine, drug abuse or "crime prevention" book which supposedly will be provided to the local schools. But school systems rarely want such poor-quality books and may just throw them away.
2) The sale of tickets to a traveling circus, variety or entertainment show. They may claim that "needy children are counting on you," but often they have no arrangement with any children's charity or hospital-again, many of the tickets you buy may be thrown out!
The name "police," "trooper," or "firefighter" does NOT mean that a group in your local community is calling. They may be from a different city or even another state!
If you do decide to give, pay by check or money order made payable to the non-profit group itself--never to a salesman or to "cash." But we suggest you resist high-pressure telephone appeals. Insist that the caller mail you literature on his organization which will tell you its location and where the donations go. Often telemarketers will refuse to mail anything, or they just send a "thank you for your pledge" envelope (to trick you). If they do send materials, check out the group's BBB report first.

To file a complaint visit: www.baltimore.bbb.org or write: BBB, 1414 Key Highway, #100, Baltimore MD 21230. Their office serves Baltimore and all of Greater Maryland.

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