(DES MOINES, Iowa) A Minnesota fundraising group must change its Iowa fundraising practices, under a formal agreement with Attorney General Tom Miller.
Public Safety Council, LLP, and Community Safety, LLC, both headquartered in Minneapolis, their subcontractor, Safety Services, LLC, of St. Paul, and their principals, J. Michael Callan and Robert T. Callan, have entered into an agreement with the Attorney General, called an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance.
From a call center in St. Paul, telephone solicitors called Iowans on behalf of at least three Iowa law enforcement associations. Several calls, which were recorded by the Consumer Protection Division, reveal unfair and deceptive conduct, Miller alleges. The respondents deny wrongdoing or liability of any kind. The respondents solicited Iowans on behalf of the following organizations:
- Iowa State Police Association (ISPA)
Of the total amount solicited from Iowans in donations to the Iowa State Police Association (ISPA), fundraisers retain 84%, and only 16% actually goes to ISPA. Based on recorded calls, the Attorney General alleges that telephone fundraisers failed to identify themselves as paid professional fundraisers; insinuated that they were directly associated with ISPA or a law enforcement agency; falsely inflated the amount of donations benefiting ISPA, by implying that as much as 100% of a donation goes to ISPA; and misrepresented how often they call potential donors.
- Iowa State Reserve Law Officers Association (ISRLOA)
Of the total amount solicited from Iowans in donations to the Iowa State Reserve Law Officers Association (ISRLOA), fundraisers retain 85%, and only 15% actually goes to ISRLOA. Based on recorded calls, the Attorney General alleges that telephone fundraisers failed to identify themselves as paid professional fundraisers; insinuated that they were directly associated with ISRLOA or a law enforcement agency; falsely inflated the amount of donations benefiting ISRLOA, by claiming that as much as 100% of a donation goes to ISRLOA; and misrepresented the solicitors’ location.
- Iowa Peace Officers Association (IAPO)*
(*formerly known as Iowa Association of Chiefs of Police and Peace Officers)
Of the total amount fundraisers solicit from Iowans in donations to the Iowa Peace Officers Association (IAPO), Public Safety retains about 84%, and only about 16% actually goes to IAPO. Based on recorded calls, the Attorney General alleges that telephone fundraisers failed to identify themselves as paid professional fundraisers; insinuated that they were directly associated with IAPO or a law enforcement agency; falsely inflated the amount of donations benefiting IAPO, by claiming that as much as 60% of a donation goes to IAPO; misrepresented when the donor would receive another call; and misrepresented the solicitor’s location.
Under the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, the fundraising group agreed to the following conditions in any future solicitations to Iowans, and the principals agreed that any future fundraising businesses would also comply:
- Cannot not make false or misleading representations of material facts while fundraising.
- Cannot state or imply that solicitors are members of, employees of, or volunteers for the beneficiary organizations or agencies.
- State clearly before soliciting that the call is originating from a professional fundraiser.
- Establish policies and practices to ensure that telephone solicitors provide accurate and informative responses to consumers’ questions about the percentage of donations that go to the recipient organization.
- Cannot misrepresent or obscure the location from which the telephone solicitor is calling.
- Cannot misrepresent or overstate the benefit of a donation to a consumer’s local community, region or state.
- Cannot misrepresent or misstate the frequency of phone solicitations to consumers.
- Cannot provide performance bonuses to telemarketers based on dollars pledged or donated, unless tied to compliance with this agreement and acceptable company policies.
- The company must record and store a certain number of solicitation calls and provide them to the Attorney General upon request.
Donor Beware! How to avoid charity fraud and make the most of your donations:
Miller has the following tips for avoiding charity fraud:
- Ask questions. Be wary of claims that the caller is a charity worker or volunteer, that most of your donation goes to the cause, or that your donation will be used locally.
- Don’t let a sympathetic charity name fool you – some fundraisers exaggerate or fabricate their support for veterans or military families, law enforcement, fire fighters, victims of disease, and children’s causes.
- Ask phone solicitors to send written information. Be suspicious if they insist on a pledge before they’ll send you information. Check them out at the national Better Business Bureau “wise giving” site – www.give.org.
- 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.
- Bottom line: Keep giving generously, but give wisely! Giving to a known charity you’re confident about is often the best option.
If you think you have been cheated by a fundraising scheme, contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, Hoover Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. Call 515-281-5926, or 888-777-4590 toll free. Web site: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov.
# # #