Rip-Off Alert: Aggressive calls for children's charities trigger concerns
LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) —
He has admitted to raising money for a children's charity then keeping the money for himself.
The ripped-off victims who wanted to help are now left wondering who they can trust.
Patricia Shoemaker was among thousands of people who donated money to Helping Out and the Smiles For Kids Foundation.
"When you hear it's for children, everybody wants to help out children when it's for children," she said.
Both charities said they were raising money for children battling cancer, so she sent a check. Then she started to get phone calls.
“Someone calling saying, ‘You really need to send your check in right now because the kids are really counting on you,’” she said.
The aggressive nature of the calls made her think twice.
"When you're donating it, you're donating it because it is out of your heart,” she said. “You don't expect someone to say. ‘I'm really expecting it — give it to me.’”
It turns out it was all a sham.
Clifford Edwards was setting up call centers in Chicago for the two fake charities.
Over a three-year span, 3,600 people gave Edwards more than $120,000.
"I was naïve to the fact of what could happen,” Shoemaker said. “That has really opened my eyes.”
“He was using the money for his personal expenses, and not one single penny was going out to benefit kids with cancer,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Eduardo Andrade.
Postal inspectors say before you agree to give any money to a charity, look them up.
"Get the specific name of the organization that is calling you and put the word scam right next to it and just Google that, and you would be surprised to see how many other people complain about these people," Andrade said.
Shoemaker says the experience has made it hard for her to trust any organization. If she gets any aggressive calls repeatedly asking for money, she knows what to say.
"No. I'm not going to give,” she said. “Take me off your call list. And if you don't, I will give your name to a lawyer and we will prosecute. And that just shuts a bunch of phone calls down."
Edwards was charged with 20 counts of mail fraud and sentenced to four years in jail. He was also ordered to pay $120,000 in restitution to the victims.