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Police And Fire Solicitations... What You Should Know

CONSUMER ALERT

 

BILL SCHUETTE

ATTORNEY GENERAL

 

The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern.  Consumer Alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General.

 

Police and Fire Solicitations -
What You Should Know

 

We've all received calls from members of our local police, fire, or sheriff's departments requesting a contribution. Or have we......? 

 

Consider this example - the Michigan Sheriffs' Association never solicits donations by telephone and warns consumers to beware of aggressive telemarketing by callers who falsely claim to represent sheriffs.

 

The moral?  We all want to support our police officers and firefighters who risk their lives to make our communities safer - but in order to make sure your contribution will be used for the right purposes - know before you give. 

 

FACT - Most public safety organizations are not charitable. Most of them are trade organizations, labor unions or lobbying groups.  Even if they tell you about charitable causes they support, your donation may not be used for any charitable activities. In addition, because most public safety groups are not 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, contributions are likely not deductible on your income taxes.

FACT - The person who telephoned you requesting a contribution was likely not a member of your local police or fire department. Almost all solicitation by telephone is done by for-profit, professional fundraisers, who sometimes keep as much as 90% of your contribution as compensation.  In other words, for $100 to be given to the organization after the fundraiser's fee, you may have to contribute $1000.


FACT - Some professional fundraisers have been known to imply that you will be better protected if you make a donation.  For example, you may be told that emergency police or fire response to your house will be faster. The truth is that contributions to these organizations - or their fundraisers - will have no effect on the level of protection police and fire departments provide.
 

FACT - Some fundraisers may use deceptive tactics to induce you to make a donation. If you receive a bill for an unfamiliar pledge (promise to donate) you don't recall making, there's a good chance you never made such a promise - you may merely have requested written information about the organization.  Or an unethical telemarketer may thank you for previous donations, even if you never made any.

What you should know

 

Michigan law provides the following protections:

  • Public safety organizations and their professional fundraisers must register with the Attorney General's Charitable Trust Section before soliciting.
  • All telephone solicitations made by public safety organizations and their professional fundraisers must be recorded and kept for 60 days.
  • The caller cannot legally tell you that you will receive special benefits or treatment if you make a pledge, or that you will receive unfavorable treatment if you do not pledge.
  • You cannot legally be billed for pledges you did not make.
  • The caller must tell you whether he or she is employed by a professional fundraising organization rather than a police department, sheriff's office or fire department.


What you should do

 

 

Remember, the only way we will know about a scam and can take action is if you file a complaint.  If you believe that you have been misled or lied to, or if you have received a bill for a pledge you did not make, you are welcome to file a complaint with the Attorney General's Charitable Trust Section.  If you report a suspicious call promptly, the Charitable Trust Section may obtain a copy of the recorded solicitation to determine if formal action should be taken.

Send a detailed description of your complaint along with any materials you received from the organization or call 1(800) 769-4515. Your name and contact information are helpful, but not necessary. Please include the date you received the phone call or the solicitation material. 

 

You may visit www.michigan.gov/ag to file a complaint online (click on "File A Complaint" in the left frame) or send a written complaint to:

 

Department of Attorney General
Charitable Trust Section
PO Box 30214
Lansing, MI 48909
 

You may also call the Attorney General's Public Safety Information Line, toll-free, at (800) 769-4515.

 

For information on a variety of issues affecting consumers, visit www.michigan.gov/ag or contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at:

 

Consumer Protection Division

P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909

517-373-1140

Fax: 517-241-3771

Toll free: 1-877-765-8388

 

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