Behind the Headlines: Telemarketing truths

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Q. The Colorado Secretary of State's Office released its first report on charitable solicitations this year. According to that report, how much of the money collected by paid solicitors actually goes to the nonprofit organizations they are collecting for?

A. It appears that somewhere between only 7 percent to 15 percent, on average, goes to the charity. That figures out to 7 to 15 cents of every dollar actually goes to the charity.

Q. Some of the charities on the list released by the Secretary of State's Office raised money for law enforcement agencies. How much of the proceeds raised actually went to the law enforcement agencies? Is the amount worrisome?

A. About the same 7 percent to 15 percent goes to law enforcement agencies. This is very worrisome because the telephone solicitor does not tell donors this information.

Q. When paid solicitors call homes to collect money for charities, are they required to identify themselves as paid solicitors or the amount of money actually going to the charity? Do you know of any legislation that would change how solicitors do business?

A. When paid solicitors call homes, they are not required to identify themselves as such or tell people exactly how much money goes to the charity, and in most cases they misrepresent the facts by saying that a lot of the money goes back to local agencies.

I have spoken with several senators and representatives who are looking at sponsoring legislation to fix the issues in the next legislative session.

Q. What do you recommend people do when a solicitor calls their home asking for a charitable donation? If someone does want to give money to these organizations, are there options other than dealing with a phone solicitor?

A. When a solicitor calls, I recommend that people just hang up. If you want to give to the organization the solicitor is representing, I suggest contacting that organization and making the donation directly to it.

Q. The Routt County Sheriff's Office has implemented the ElderWatch program to help prevent the financial exploitation of seniors. Are seniors more likely to be vulnerable to telephone solicitations? If so, why, and what can they, their friends and relatives do to prevent it?

A. Yes, seniors are more likely to be vulnerable to solicitors. Part of the training we have done with seniors is to educate them on this problem and explain to them to do something: "Just hang up."

Seniors are more at risk because of the high-pressure salesmanship tactics these telemarketers use. Family members should monitor and talk with their elders to ensure they are not held ransom to these folks.

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