October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and as we come to the end of the month, scammers are taking full advantage of the increased attention to this disease which is diagnosed in 200,000 women each year. Actually, although the disease is commonly thought to only affect women, men can also get breast cancer. Richard Roundtree, the actor who played Shaft in the classic 1971 movie of the same name; Peter Criss, of the iconic Hall of Fame rock group KISS and talk show host Montel Williams are just a few of the many men who have had breast cancer. Just today I received a telephone call from a telemarketer seeking a contribution to a breast cancer charity or at least that is what she said. Even if you are on the federal Do-Not-Call List, which I strongly recommend, unless you want to talk to telemarketers, the law permits charities and politicians to contact you. However, whenever you receive a telephone call, you can never be sure who is really calling you. Even if your Caller ID indicates that the call you are getting is coming from a charity whose name you recognize, the call actually may be from a scammer using a technique called Spoofing to make it appear that the call is legitimate when it is not. The truth is that the call you receive may or may not be from a legitimate charity or a telemarketer on behalf of a legitimate charity and you have no way of knowing who is really on the other end of the line.
When you receive such a call from a telemarketer or someone purporting to represent a charity, if you are interested in the particular charity, the best thing you can do is just to ask them to send you written material. Do not provide your credit card number over the phone to anyone who calls you because you cannot be sure that they are legitimate. Also, as I have warned you in the past, many phony charities have names that are similar to real charities so it is always a good idea to investigate a charity before you make a charitable contribution. In addition, when you receive a charitable solicitation telephone call from a telemarketer, the telemarketer is generally being paid a commission for the money he or she collects. Thus, your contribution to the charity is diluted by the amount that goes to the telemarketer and as Jerry Seinfeld would say, “not that there is anything wrong with that.” However, if you really want to make your charitable contribution go farther, you will be better served by first checking out the particular charity at http://www.charitynavigator.org where you can find out not only if the particular charity is legitimate, but also how much of your contribution goes toward administrative costs and how much actually goes toward the charity’s charitable purposes. Then you can make your contribution directly to the charity without any amount being deducted for fund raising expenses.