Friday, September 5, 2008

Scam Alert Involving D.A.R.E.

On my way out of Walgreens (a drug store) today, I was asked for a donation of $20 to help D.A.R.E which I was told is in danger of folding due to lack of funds. Being that I have children and like to support such charities, I happily handed the man a $20 bill. As he reached for his receipt book, he asked me for an additional $1.78 in sales tax. (This was the first RED FLAG). I do give my self credit for at least asking about charging sales tax on a “donation”. Of course, the young man had a smooth response having something to do with the T-shirt and children’s book that I was receiving for the $20 amount.

Given that I am the Queen of Naïveté, I handed the young man $2 and told him to keep the change. Once home, I decided to file the receipt. That is when I noticed something was not right. “D.A.R.E.” did not appear at the top of my receipt, nor did the word “donation” appear anywhere. I quickly flipped it over and read the back.

To my shock and horror, the receipt said that D.A.R.E. would receive 5% of my $20 donation! (The state would get the $1.78.) I thought I gave $20 to D.A.R.E., but in reality, D.A.R.E. would only receive $1.00!

Angry that I had been scammed, I called D.A.R.E. The girl who answered the phone was new and could only tell me to go to a website and try to figure out for myself how to get the money back. I told her that this practice made no sense to me. Why would D.A.R.E. affiliate itself with marketing companies that prey on donors who want to support D.A.R.E.? She had no answers.

I could see my complaint would go nowhere. So, I found a phone number on the receipt. The woman who answered gave yet another company name which was different from the marketing company listed on the receipt. So, there is apparently some kind of pyramid scheme going on here.

There was a 2nd red flag. Because I was waiting for a prescription to be filled and it was lunch time, I slipped into a local diner for a quick bite to eat. The young man and woman who had scammed me (I was still unaware that I had been taken) came walking in. I was struck by the young man’s fancy suit and the young woman’s professional dress and Gucci handbag. Hello! Do I really need to be hit over the head by a two by four to see when I am being conned?!

Determined to save my friends from falling prey to this scam, I sent out an email to warn them. Unfortunately, one friend emailed back saying she had given them money too, thinking that her donation was going to D.A.R.E.

I don’t know why D.A.R.E. chooses to use these marketing companies to raise funds. But I do know that these companies are using Deceptive Practices. My donation was actually a purchase of merchandise. Thus, the additional sales tax. Unbelievable!

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