In case somehow you haven't noticed, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
While some charities are perfectly legitimate in helping in the cancer fight — don't get fooled by the sometimes misleading pretty pink colors of October.
Last year, it was announced that a Great Neck couple exploited the sympathies and generosity of donors by fraudulently raising hundreds of thousands of dollars under the guise of fighting breast cancer, only to use the cash for other purposes.
In August of 2011 the Long Island Business News reported, David Winston of Great Neck pleaded guilty to two felony charges related to the Great Neck-based Coalition for Breast Cancer Cures and The Resource Center. Mindy Winston, his wife, pleaded guilty to one felony of falsifying business records related to the charity’s bank account.
The Long Island-based Coalition for Breast Cancer Cures and their chief fundraiser, the Resource Center, raised money through telemarketing under the guise of fighting breast cancer, according to a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who shut down the Great Neck-based operation.
"The money was used to pay exorbitant fundraiser fees, unjustified salaries and benefits packages, and for other personal goods, including cell phones and home phones, and TV and internet services," according to a release by Schneiderman
The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to pay close attention before giving to charities.
"Pink packaging – and a real or implied tie to breast cancer charities – comes on products ranging from socks to cereal, lint rollers to water bottles," according to the BBB website. "Some pink-labeled products provide very limited benefits to charities, while makers of other products guarantee a minimum donation for products bought during a promotional period."
The BBB advises donors to check into how a purchase might benefit a charity and which charity will get the money. More BBB tips:
- Inspect the product for information. Many companies clearly report on labels how much of their sales go to charity and specifically where the money goes.
- Check the company’s website. If the information isn’t on the product itself, it often can be found at the website address printed on the product packaging.
- If you still can’t find the information, call the company and ask for it. Firms that use charity tie-ins to market their products should be transparent to consumers.
- Contact the charity directly if you have doubts they are receiving proceeds.
- Check out the charity to decide whether you believe it is worthy of your support. One way to do this is by contacting the BBB to determine whether the charity meets the BBB’s 20 Standards for Accountability. You may reach the BBB by going to www.bbb.org.
Any donor who suspects they have been a victim of charitable solicitation fraud should contact the Attorney General's office at www.charitiesnys.com or by calling (212) 416-8402.