It’s not even October yet.
About ten days ago, I got a call first thing in the morning on my house phone. The people I really want to hear from usually call me on my cellphone, and telemarketers are the folks who usually call the house phone. But occasionally, one of my doctors will call the house phone, and I was waiting on some test results (again), so I picked up the phone.
“Hello?” I said, and waited. I didn’t hear any background voices or any of those funny noises that herald an auto-dialer. So far, so good.
“Is this Ms. Kolb?” A female voice.
I never answer that question directly. If they ask, “Is this Mrs. Kolb, I usually say, “There’s no Mrs. Kolb here,” which is the literal truth, and hang up. What I said this time was, “Who’s calling, please?”
“My name is Hoozit Something-or-other. I’m a representative from Corporations for Character and I’m calling on behalf of the Breast Cancer Financial Assistance Fund. Many women with breast cancer suffer a significant financial impact and need help to pay their bills. Blah, blah, blah…”
I interrupted her. “I’m only going to say this once, so just listen, don’t say another word, and grab your pencil. I don’t know how you got my name or number, but I have some ideas. I’m one of those women with breast cancer who’ve suffered a significant financial impact. I’m going to give you an email address, so write this down. You are welcome to email me some information and links, and I will review and research them, and if I decide you are legitimate, I may write a blog post about your organization. And if I decide you are NOT legitimate, I’ll write about that…”
Foolishly, she interrupted me. She was not, I’m certain, waiting with her pencil poised to take down my email address.
“Oh! I’m so sorry! You are just the sort of person we’re trying to reach. Our organization…blah, blah, blah…”
“I told you not to say another word. Would you like my email address or not?”
“…and we’re trying to raise more funds and get the word out to the thousands of women in this country that…”
“You’re not listening, are you? Neither am I. Don’t ever call me again.” Slam. The great thing about still having a regular phone is that you can slam it when you hang up on someone.
Sharks and tornadoes.
I’ve researched the legitimacy of countless breast cancer organizations, including those who offer financial help. There’s no doubt that many of us go broke having cancer and could use some cash while we’re waiting for a cure. [See Broke: The Cost of Breast Cancer.] The last time I googled ‘breast cancer organizations,’ I got nine million hits. When I googled ‘breast cancer charity organizations list’ just now, I got three-and-a-half million hits. A lot of those hits were for groups that monitor such charities and who attempt to separate the good from the dross. Needless to say, it’s impossible for one blogger to keep up with the dross.
But after that ridiculous phone call, I did look up the Breast Cancer Financial Assistance Fund. Their website is in ‘maintenance mode.’ But I did find this: One of the Nation’s Worst Charities: Right Here!, a post published by the Utah Better Business Bureau just this year on April 22, 2014. And this, by Maggie Freleng, Breast Cancer Scams: The Worst Charities Include 5 Pink Types, posted a year ago. The bottom line is that the BCFAF is essentially a scam group that is part of another scam group called the Cancer Fund of America. From the BBB article:
BCFAF not only has been the subject of numerous legal actions by government entities, it was recently spotlighted in a detailed investigative report by the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting as the Second Worst Charity in the United States. Cancer Fund of America also known as BCFAF was also the subject of a 2009 news warning from BBB in St. Louis.[...]
BBB research shows that Cancer Fund of America, also known as, BCFAF hired Corporations for Character to solicit for donations via telephone. According to the 2012 IRS Form 990 for Cancer Fund of America, also known as BCFAF, Corporations for Character raised $448,276 and kept $410,996 with $37,280 (or a little over 8%) going to the charity.
Corporations for Character and Feature Films for Families are also the subject of a May 9, 2011, complaint in which the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice allege the defendants made 16 million calls to numbers on the Do Not Call Registry and misrepresented how funds would be used.
Just to add insult to injury, I had also just received a snailmail solicitation from Bank of America for their Pink Ribbon BankAmericard MasterCard. Bank of America has earned its own list of reports about fraudulent practices, including this, by Mike Taibbi of Rolling Stone, about BOA’s role in the 2008 economic crisis: Bank of America: Too Crooked to Fail. However, never let it be said that corporate pinkwashing has gone out of style. According to BOA’s webpage, if you get their Pink Ribbon credit card, you can
Join the fight against breast cancer and earn cash back, too[...] For each new Susan G. Komen®-branded credit card account opened and activated, Komen receives a minimum of $3 and 0.20% of all net retail purchases made with the card. For example, 20 cents for every $100. Komen also receives $1 for each annual renewal of the card.
Wow, a whole two tenths of a percent! I mean, just think how many useless pink tchotchkes you could buy with $100! And with 20 cents going to Komen, that cure ought to be discovered any day now, eh?
People, the sharks are out there. And they’ve started early.
A few alternate suggestions. These folks will spend your donations legitimately:
Breast Cancer Action; see their Think Before You Pink page.
METAvivor, which funds research for metastatic breast cancer.
Oh, and apologies to the Sharknado folks for altering your poster.