An Allentown-based telemarketer will pay $75,000 to resolve claims it illegally solicited charitable contributions and portrayed itself as a member of fraternal organizations, including firefighters and constables, Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly announced Tuesday.
The $75,000 restitution is part of an agreement Kelly said her office reached with Atlantic Productions, which operates as a telemarketing fundraising firm on behalf of nonprofit organizations, including the Pennsylvania State Constables Association, the Reading Police Beneficial Association, International Association of Firefighters Local 302 Allentown, Fraternal Order of Police Queen City Lodge #10 Allentown, and the Rajah Shiners of Reading.
According to the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC), Atlantic Productions called consumers to solicit charitable contributions while not properly registered with the Pennsylvania Department of State and misled donors into thinking they were speaking with firefighters, constables or other public safety officials instead of paid professional solicitors.
Atlantic Productions hired some callers who had prior criminal records that included theft or dishonesty, Kelly said.
Atlantic Productions also sent donation confirmations entitled “official receipt” along with stickers and decals displaying an “official” constable sticker, which is illegal under the Solicitations of Funds for Charitable Purposes Act.
Kelly noted that warning letters were sent to Atlantic Productions’ clients for failure to properly oversee their telemarketers’ fundraising activities.
Under the terms of the agreement, Kelly said Atlantic Productions agrees to:
• Pay $75,000 in restitution, fines, and penalties;
• Record all solicitation calls, which will be searchable by date, time and phone number;
• Operate in compliance with the Charities Act and Consumer Protection Law;
• Cease making solicitations for charitable purposes on behalf of unregistered charitable organizations;
• Adequately train all telemarketers; and
• Clearly disclose their name and status as a paid professional solicitor.
Kelly advised donors to:
• Ask for details about any organization before making a donation;
• Request information about how funds will be spent. (If asked, callers must disclose what percentage of the contribution will go toward community service, operating expenses or fundraising);
• Ask whether you are being contacted directly by the organization or a paid fundraiser;
• Make contributions directly to the organization; and
• Obtain a receipt or written confirmation for all donations.