The Investigators: On The Line - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators: On The Line

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By Andy Wise - bio | email | Facebook

MEMPHIS (WMC-TV) - Hang up. Call the REAL organization. Confirm.

It's that simple.

But folks still fall for telemarketers posing as real business organizations, charities and pseudo-law enforcement agencies who are either collecting "donations" or claiming you've won a "prize" or "sweepstakes."

Think about it. Some guy or gal calls you out of the blue, invading your privacy. The caller virtually demands your attention, your charity dollar or your gullibility at winning some sweepstakes you never entered in the first place.

You have my permission to be rude. You HAVE to be rude. Here's why:

SWEEPSTAKES SOLICITATIONS:

Some are phone calls. Some are letters with checks. Some are "phishing" e-mails. They all have the same three components:

1. They're UNSOLICITED. You didn't contact them. They contacted you.  So what if they're using a legitimate organization's name? A legitimate organization is not going to cold-contact you about a prize you won for a contest you never entered. 

And again, you can always hang up, look up the legitimate organization's contact information and ask its people if they are really trying to get in touch with you. Don't deal with an unsolicited contact.

2. They include a BAIT.  Sometimes it's a check in an envelope (it is ALWAYS counterfeit). Sometimes it's a link in an e-mail to click and get what they're offering (which launches spyware or malware on your computer). Don't fall for it!

3. They ASK FOR SOMETHING IN RETURN. They say in order to claim your "prize," you must transfer x-amount of dollars via Western Union to them as a "tax" or "fee" or "lawyer's retainer." Again, a scam every time. You never have to pay for something you legitimately won -- and you can't legitimately win something you didn't enter!!

CHARITABLE SOLICITATIONS:

My rule is never give to anyone or anything where the relationship didn't start with YOU. Just because someone or some organization asks -- doesn't mean you answer. 

Always give priority to your church. If you're an active member of a church, then your church should be your charity. Give to it first.

Then if you're still interested, pick something that stirs passion in you -- children, a cause, whatever. Then research the REGISTERED charities that nourish that passion. Contact your state's charities bureau or agency that regulates charities. Confirm their registration, licensure, tax deductible vs. tax exempt (you want the former), and how much of your dollar goes to programs vs. professional solicitors.

The Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South says legitimate charities should dedicate at least 65 percent of their expenses to actual programs. Those expenses - and their percentages - are public record. 

Here are the Mid-South agencies that track charity and professional solicitor registration:

The BBB's Wise Giving Alliance:  http://us.bbb.org/WWWRoot/SitePage.aspx?site=113&id=4ef08b14-37cb-4974-a385-7f41f63b16b0

Tennessee Secretary of State's Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming:  http://www.tennessee.gov/sos/charity/index.htm

Mississippi Secretary of State's Regulation & Enforcement Division:  http://www.sos.state.ms.us/regenf/charities/charities.asp

Arkansas Attorney General's Office:  http://ag.arkansas.gov/consumers_protection_charitable_registration.html

LAW ENFORCEMENT/FIRE SOLICITITATIONS:

The tell-tale signs of a police charity scam:

* IF IT ACCEPTS CASH ONLY, IT'S A SCAM. Legitimate police charities will accept checks and money orders, but not necessarily credit cards.

* IF IT USES AN OFFICER'S DEATH TO SOLICIT FUNDS, IT'S A SCAM. The family of an officer killed in the line of duty will get a death benefit from the government, not phone donations.

* IF IT CLAIMS TO BE COLLECTING FOR BULLET-PROOF VESTS, WEAPONS OR EQUIPMENT, IT'S A SCAM. Our tax dollars pay for those items.

If police or fire departments are your passion, find ways to serve the men and women in uniform at your local station. Cook for them. Volunteer at the station when and where appropriate. Get to know them and give to them directly. 

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