New Jersey Monthly

Donor beware: when telemarketers call claiming to raise money for local police departments, who's really getting paid?(Fighting Back)

THE GUY ON THE PHONE SOUNDED STRONG, hearty, a bit rough around the edges. "Is this Mr. Michael Laser?" he asked.

"Yes," I answered.

"How are you doing tonight? My name is Vic. I'm calling from the New Jersey Police Officers Foundation ..."

Assuming he was a cop, I tried to make a courteous excuse, but Vic proved persuasive. He said that his organization raises money to benefit the families of police officers slain in the line of duty. I asked how much of my donation would actually go to the families. He assured me, "All of the money we collect goes to the foundation." I agreed to give $10.

"You're sure you can't do $25? And we'll send you the decal for your car to show everyone you support the police." I resisted politely, though I'll admit I regretted that I wouldn't have that decal on my window in case I got nabbed speeding on the Parkway.

The pledge envelope arrived a few days later. No longer under Vic's spell and mildly skeptical, I called the state's Division of Consumer Affairs. I learned that in 2001, the New Jersey Police Officers Foundation took in $1,311,061 from the public, spent $74,527 on program activities, and paid $1,219,409 for fund-raising. In other words, the foundation spent 93 percent of its donations on fund-raising expenses and only 6 percent on its family programs.

Misleading solicitation in the name of police or firefighters is so common, prosecutors have a name for it: badge fraud. The State Lodge of the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police took in nearly $5 million from the public in 2003, of which it spent 78 percent on fund-raising; programs accounted for 19 percent and management expenses were 3 percent. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.