DOJ: News Release

McGrath: Telephone Fundraising Pitch Not Tied to State Program

HELENA – Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath said today that a telephone fundraising campaign for a “cancer exam” organization may have some Montana consumers mistakenly believing their donation goes to a state-run program. The solicitation raising money for breast cancer detection and treatment is not tied to the Montana Breast and Cervical Health Program (MBCHP).

McGrath became aware of the fundraising pitch when he personally got a call at his Helena home.

“We often warn consumers to be wary of pitches that try to play on emotions,” McGrath said. “In this case, using cancer to appeal to Montana consumers — and making it sound like donations are tied to a state-operated program — is particularly distasteful.”

Telemarketers are calling numbers in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell and Missoula. The pitch includes a follow-up letter confirming the consumer’s pledge, with a reply envelope that lists a local mailing address. The local addresses belong to mailbox rental sites. The same organization — it appears to be based in Washington — did telephone fundraising in Montana last spring.

“Montana consumers give generously to a variety of charities,” McGrath said, “which makes it even more important that they are donating wisely.

“Probably the best thing to do is to reach out a trusted organization and make a donation, rather than wait for a solicitation,” he said.

McGrath offered a few other reminders about telephone solicitations.

  • Ask for the name and mailing address of the charity if the telemarketer or solicitor does not provide it promptly.
  • Ask what percentage of the donation is used to support the causes described in the solicitation and what percentage is used for administrative costs. It is also a good idea to ask if the solicitor is a paid fundraiser or a volunteer.
  • Call the charity to find out if it is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. Remember, anyone with a phone can pretend to be charity or describe his organization as “nonprofit.”
  • Remember, too, that anyone can place a recognizable logo — like a pink ribbon — on a website or on stationery in an effort to resemble other, more familiar charities.
    Don’t provide any credit card or bank account information over the phone. Ask the solicitor to send you more information.

Consumers who suspect a fundraiser may be illegitimate should contact local law enforcement or call the Office of Consumer Protection at 800-481-6896.

The Breast and Cervical Health Program in the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, meanwhile, seeks to reduce breast and cervical cancer deaths among Montana women by providing screening services and education.

The program provides mammograms, clinical breast exams, Pap tests and pelvic exams for the early detection of breast and cervical cancer. These services may be provided free to eligible women.

“The MBCHP does accept donations,” said Sue Miller of the MBCHP, “and we would never discourage consumers from donating to legitimate charities that support cancer treatment, detection and prevention.

“In this case, however, the MBCHP is not affiliated with this solicitation.”

People interested in helping the MBCHP can call Karan Kunz at (406) 444-0063.

And women and their health care providers who would like more information about the program, the services it helps provide, income guidelines and local contact information can call toll-free at 1-800-803-9343 or go online at www.cancer.mt.gov.

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