State Fire Marshal Ray Reynolds is warning Iowans of a suspicious phone solicitation from people claiming to raise money for Iowa Firefighters. Reynolds doubts investigators will be able to catch the people running the scam because the caller ID is hidden.
“As soon as you start asking questions, they become more and more defensive and hang up on you,” Reynolds said. “I would just urge people to ask questions when people ask you for money.” Residents of Camanche and Ruthven have reported receiving the calls. Reynolds said the caller was seeking a donation to pay for firefighting equipment in Iowa, but didn’t claim to represent a specific organization. The president of the Iowa Firefighter’s Association says they do not participate in phone solicitation programs.
Reynolds hopes the scam doesn’t harm the reputation of the IFA which represents around 15,000 firefighters in the state. “People should not rush to judgment on the organization just because of someone trying to solicit money that isn’t related to (the IFA),” Reynolds said. Some organizations do hire professional fund raising companies, but Reynolds says those companies offer phone numbers and information for people to verify where their donation is going and that the request is legitimate.
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office offers these tips to protect the public from fund raising abuses:
* Don’t be fooled by a sympathetic name or “pitch.” Some operations use names that promise more than they deliver. For example, veterans, law enforcement, firefighters, and children’s causes clearly deserve generous public support – but some marginal operations claim connections with such groups yet provide them with very little support. Contact your local sheriff, police department, fire department or veteran’s organization to check out claims that a donation “will be used locally.”
* Ask Questions. Reputable charities welcome questions. Ask how much of your donation will go for the charitable purpose, and exactly how and where your contribution will be used. Ask if the caller is a professional fundraiser.
* Ask phone solicitors to send written information. Check out the charity before you make a decision. Be suspicious if they refuse to send solid information. Check them out at the national Better Business Bureau “wise giving” site – www.give.org.
* Don’t be fooled by “look-alike” names. Some scams use names that sound impressive and are designed to resemble well-respected organizations.
* Don’t give your credit card or checking account numbers over the phone to someone you don’t know.
* Give directly to a known charity of your choice. That’s always the best option. Check your telephone directory for a charity’s local office and contact the office.