HOLDEN, Mass. — At least two residents in Holden have received calls from people implying they represent either the American Legion Post (John E. Harkins Post 42) or an organization called Holden's Veterans with the intent of raising money for veterans in Holden, but the American Legion has no affiliation to any such charity and has not received any funds.
The post became aware of the suspicious activity when Post Commander Anthony Renzoni himself received a blocked call from someone three weeks ago claiming to represent Holden Veterans and taking donations for veterans in town. The caller stated that the organization was located in Worcester County, and assured that any money donated would go directly to veterans in the town of Holden.
When Renzoni asked for clarification, the caller could not answer, and quickly ended the conversation.
"It was very shady," said Renzoni.
Since then, Renzoni was contacted by a resident who inquired about money he had donated by phone to an organization that insinuated a connection to the American Legion Post. Believing the caller to be truthful, he donated money via credit card, and even received a receipt for his donation.
Yet Renzoni confirmed to him that the American Legion was not behind the collection, and had not received any funds.
Throughout the year, the post does hold fundraisers such as selling poppies around town or selling flags at Holden Day and Renzoni said the funds go directly to helping veterans or residents of Holden through scholarships or gift cards for families in need.
The veterans do not, however, call and ask for credit card information from residents.
"As the Commander of Post 42 I can assure you we are not collecting donations over the phone," said Renzoni. "We will gladly take any donation of any size and ensure every nickel is spent on Veterans from this town."
According to Det. Sgt. Chris Carey, of the Holden Police Department, scams such as these occur all the time, especially after a major incident such as a flood, hurricane, or even preying on emotions from the recent helicopter crash.
"What I always recommend to people is that they do not make contributions to unsolicited phone calls (or emails)," explained Carey. "If they wish to make a contribution to a charity, they should call the charity themselves by looking up the number or driving to their location and making it that way. There are always people out there trying to steal from people and charity fraud is just one example."
Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission has issued the following tips for people to avoid being scammed.
Look up the organization at the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, or the American Institute of Philanthropy. Ask the caller "Are you calling on behalf of a charity? What is the name of your organization?"
Look closely at charities with names similar to well-known organizations. Some phony charities try to gain your trust by using names that sound or look like legitimate organizations. Ask the caller "Can you point me to a Website or another resource for more information about your organization?"
Avoid giving cash gifts. They can be lost or stolen. For security and tax purposes, it's best to pay by check, made payable to the charity, not the solicitor. Ask, "Can you give me a receipt showing the amount of my contribution and stating that it is tax deductible?"
Be skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge you don't remember making. If you have any doubts about whether you've made a pledge or previously contributed, check your records.
Reject high pressure appeals. Legitimate fund-raisers don't put you on the spot to give. Ask, "Can you mail me more information about the charity and how it works?"
Do not do business with any charity offering to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect your donation.
Consider the costs. When you buy merchandise or tickets for special events, or get "free" goods in exchange for giving, remember that part of your contribution was used to pay for it.
Be cautious of promises of guaranteed sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. According to U.S. law, you never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.
A special word about appeals that tug at your heart strings, especially pleas involving patriotism and current events: Before you give, make sure the organization has the infrastructure to deliver the help it is claiming to provide.
After receiving a call asking for a donation, call the charity in question to find out whether it is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name.
Facts about Fire, Police, or Military Fundraisers
Simply having the words "police" or "firefighter" in an organization's name doesn't mean police or firefighters are members of the group or will benefit from the funds raised.
An organization may claim it has ties with local police or firefighters, but that doesn't mean contributions will be used locally or for public safety. Call your local organization to verify the connection.
Many solicitations for police and fire service organizations are made by professional fund-raisers who are paid to do the job.
Donations to some police or firefighter groups may not be tax deductible.
The Department of Defense does not endorse specific war-related charities. Visit www.army.mil/operations/oif/FAQ.shtml a for more information about legitimate military relief societies that provide assistance to U.S. Service members and their families.