ROCKVILLE, Md. (WDVM) — Montgomery County officials want you to know if you get a call from a random person asking for donations towards the Volunteer Firefighters Association – it’s probably a scam.
At least 160 people in Montgomery County fell for a national scam, they received phone calls from a phony political action committee, asking people to donate money to volunteer firefighters but now Montgomery County officials say beware.
“They were engaged in deceptive marketing, made it look like they were calling locally when in fact the vendor was in New Hampshire,” said Eric Friedman, Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection Director.
The scammers claim they’re from a “Volunteer Firefighters Association” collecting money for the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department. One resident, who did not want to use her name, says the scammers knew her full name and address. The fraudulent callers collected more than 4.6 million dollars nationwide.
“We stopped the practice in Montgomery County but this is a situation which phony political action committees are actually engaging in deceptive telemarketing,” said Friedman.
The fire department posted a notice on their website saying they do not solicit donations through the phone.
“Tip number one is when you answer the phone you really don’t know who is on the other line and you cannot trust caller id unfortunately,” said Friedman.
Friedman says don’t act right away, take time to do research, and if it sounds legit then call back. The county recently took action against the fraudulent PAC company. Both reached a settlement agreement, which states the PAC will stop soliciting in the county and will have to offer a full refund to consumers who fell victim to this scam.
Montgomery County is not the first government to pursue action against the PAC. If you wish to donate to the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department https://rvfd.org/
At firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 240-777-3636.
- Do not assume that caller-id information on you telephone is correct. It is easy for scammers to falsely make it appear that the call is coming from a local telephone number or from a specific organization.
- Do not be fooled by the name of an organization. It is easy for scammers to do business using deceptive names that make them sound like they are a charity or are affiliated with firefighters, police, or first responders.
- Research the organization before making any donation and avoid donating money to organizations that do not use most of the donation for the actual cause you wish to support. Resource information is provided by an organization called charity navigator, which can be found at https://www.charitynavigator.org/.
- Ask for written information about the charity, including the name, address and telephone number. A legitimate charity or fundraiser will give out information about the charity’s mission, how donations will be used and proof that contributions may be tax-deductible.
- Be skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge you do not remember making. If you have any doubts about whether you previously made a pledge or previously contributed, check your records. Be on the alert for invoices claiming you have made a pledge. Some unscrupulous solicitors use this approach to get your money by asking you to back that pledge with the actual donation—except no pledge existed.
For additional information about this or other scams, and to file complaints, contact the county office of consumer protection via email at email@example.com or by phone at 240-777-3636.