The Ugly Scourge of Charity Telemarketing Scams
One of the most-requested topics for my talks is charity scams. Elders are so often targeted by telemarketing scammers who prey on their generosity and values of giving to make the world a better place. Giving to charity is a major way that elders enact their developmental drives of legacy and control, that is their desire to be remembered in meaningful ways and to maintain some degree of influence in their lives in the face of increasing losses. Giving to a cause near and dear to their hearts helps seniors feel they are a good person and can still help make the world a better place. That’s why telemarketing charity scams are so heartbreaking, especially when targets realize how little of their donations actually go to the causes to which they are giving.
It’s important to note that the vast majority of nonprofits in America do not use scam telemarketing firms to collect their donations, and the presence of some bad actors shouldn’t mean that all charities or nonprofits are suspect. For those who do use telemarketing firms, the picture is far from pleasing:
- Former employees of a notorious telemarketing firm have admitted they were trained to target elders without regard for their obvious physical or cognitive impairments.
- The former employees also reported being taught to use high-pressure tactics and to “reload” those people who donated, meaning they were added to the company’s list of people to call repeatedly and for other clients
- A list of the 50 worst charities in the country showed that many, if not most, of them used one particularly sleazy telemarketing firm
- 80%-90% of the funds the company collected went to its profits and not to the purported causes.
- Many tactics the telemarketing firm used fall under the heading of emotional manipulation, including the use of deceptive language, urgency, and confusion to get people to donate.
In thinking about preventing such scams from draining away money from truly worthy causes, here are a few ideas to consider:
- Support your elder in living the basic philosophy for scam prevention I write about in my book, Scammed: 3 Steps to Help Your Elder Parents and Yourself: “Never let yourself be chosen, always do the choosing.” If a senior chooses to whom they donate, then they can check out the organization beforehand (2 suggestions: www.charitynavigator.org, or www.guidestar.org).
- Use “The Three R’s of Scam Prevention:” Recognize, Respond, and Reach out. Recognize that more legitimate charities don’t use telemarketing firms and are more likely to have an existing relationship with the person. Respond by hanging up the phone immediately (and not pressing any numbers if the call is recorded), and reaching out for help to get the calls to stop, either by telling the telemarketer to put your name on their do not call list or reporting the call to your state Attorney General’s office.
Giving to help those less fortunate and to help make the world a better place calls us into some of the best parts of ourselves. Don’t let scammers ruin this essential part of the elders you care about.
Thanks for reading,
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