Did I Fall for a Scam?
March 19, 2017 2:24 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday, I got a call from an anonymous 404 area code from someone that said they were from the Planned Parenthood Federation, seeking donations. They kept giving an office address and said I'd get a receipt for my contribution. I agreed to a one-time donation and gave them my debit card number. Today I get another call from the same number, but this time the person on the other end said they were from the DNC. Did I get scammed yesterday?

Got some pretty alarming results googling the phone number, but they're just message board posts and all over the map. I don't know much about the donation solicitation industry. Could this be a situation where the PPF and the DNC both contracted with the same cold-calling firm? How do I figure out if I gave my debit card number to scammers yesterday and how do I protect myself if I did?
posted by EatTheWeak to Work & Money (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Nonprofit marketing person here. There are a few vendors that do telemarketing for lots of different nonprofits, so I wouldn't worry about that aspect of it. Most nonprofits don't do their own telemarketing.

If you're worried about this, you can always call the org's HQ and make sure they have a record of the donation, though you might need to wait a week to let it go through the system.

Also, it's always fine to politely thank the caller and make a donation online.
posted by lunasol at 2:35 PM on March 19 [10 favorites]

Also, if you post the number of memail it to me, I can see if it's linked to any of the firms I know about.
posted by lunasol at 2:39 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]

They're probably both from the same telefund firm, if they're truly from Planned Parenthood and the DNC. I can definitely confirm that both use telefund firms. If you look at their 990s, you can see that telemarketing is one of their biggest expenses. Integral Resources is listed as one of those firms, and they have a call center in Atlanta, so my guess is that you're getting called by that contracted firm.

Still, if you're concerned, go ahead and cancel your card and get a new one issued. I never give out my debit card number; scammers could theoretically clear out all my money before I realize what's happened, so the debit card is for ATMs only. Credit cards have better consumer protections.
posted by juniperesque at 2:39 PM on March 19 [6 favorites]

I'd be wary and would call the bank ASAP to let them know and get a new debit card issued. Debit cards are not nearly as secure as credit cards if they start making unauthorized charges with the info you gave them. It could be legit, but why put yourself at unnecessary risk? Phone fundraising is rife with fraudsters. I much prefer donating online.
posted by quince at 2:40 PM on March 19 [9 favorites]

In the future, never give credit card info to people who call you.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:48 PM on March 19 [68 favorites]

We're pretty sure we got our credit card info stolen from someone soliciting for PP on the street. I will definitely only donate online from now on.
posted by chaiminda at 3:12 PM on March 19

It was almost definitely the same telefund company - though they tend to have a lot of phone numbers they call from, so it would be strange that the same number came up. I wouldn't fret, but to be on the safe side I'd cancel my card and in the future only use a credit card (not debit card) for those types of transactions. It's totally great to give on the phone - yay real humans! - but get a separate card that you can cut off easily for that sort of thing in the future (and probably for all your online purchases too!!)
posted by Toddles at 3:19 PM on March 19

I donated during the campaign season, I think to HRC's campaign? And started getting phone calls incessantly after that from different liberal/Democrat-linked causes (DSCC, EMILY's List, etc.) It wasn't a scam, but the calls get annoying and from what I can tell they're pretty hard to stop. I just ignore them as best I can. Needless to say, I'm only giving online from now on.

If it gives you peace of mind, replace the card (debit cards are indeed more vulnerable), but I wouldn't worry about it too much.
posted by Kosh at 3:25 PM on March 19

The bigger problem is these telephone companies keep most of the donation, so, in that way, you got scammed.
posted by flimflam at 3:46 PM on March 19

The bigger problem is these telephone companies keep most of the donation, so, in that way, you got scammed.

Not if the OP gave them their credit card. If they charged the OP's card directly, the phone company has nothing to do with it. The only company taking a cut is the credit card company (and possibly the payment processor used by the charity).

You may be thinking of text-donation schemes ("Text the word donate to XXXYYY to give $5 to Charity Z") which the phone companies do keep a sizable chunk of.
posted by firechicago at 3:53 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

firechicago, I think flimflam means the companies doing the telephone fundraising, not the utility phone companies.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 4:02 PM on March 19 [4 favorites]

The bigger problem is these telephone companies keep most of the donation, so, in that way, you got scammed.

Nonprofits paying their employees and their contractors for work performed is not a scam.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:44 PM on March 19 [11 favorites]

as an additional bit of information, the 404 area code is Atlanta. Atlanta has two PP locations with phone numbers: (404) 688-9300. The planned parenthood action fund (their lobbying/political action group) is located in DC and NY.
posted by softlord at 4:56 PM on March 19

The bigger problem is these telephone companies keep most of the donation, so, in that way, you got scammed

They don't keep any of it. They get paid a set rate, usually per completed call (i.e. they talk to someone).
posted by Automocar at 5:06 PM on March 19 [3 favorites]

sorry if someone already said this :NEVER give information (let alone your debit card) to a unknown number that calls YOU. better cancel that card asap.
posted by patnok at 6:30 PM on March 19 [5 favorites]

We have a HOUSE RULE: no transactions over the phone or at the door, and no private information given. As soon as we get a call from a charity, even one we donate to, we state our house rule, and ask them to contact us via email or postal mail. Period.
posted by mbarryf at 7:39 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]

Yeah, we have a house rule too about calls for donations, and if we get a call purporting to be from an organization we'll not only tell the caller to put us on our do not call list, repeated calls mean we write a paper letter to the organization telling them they're in a time-out for donations. And during the time-out period, we explain the same thing to mailed requests for donations.

Telephone soliciting is not acceptable, and even if that means we have to tell NARAL or Planned Parenthood "I'm sorry, but you have 7 months left in your probationary period, if we get another phone call the clock starts over" we're sticking to it.
posted by straw at 8:29 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]

It seems unlikely that they stole your debit card number, considering that they called you again - they already had it, so if they were going to steal your money they could just do that.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:24 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]

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