Telemarketers pulling at heart strings to get to your wallet

Scammers are using sensitive subjects like veterans, disabled kids, and police, to get you to donate to suspect charities. Complaints to the Better Business Bureau about pushy telemarketers and deceptive mailers are coming in from all over the country. One suspect charity is using a Wisconsin address to raise money.

Robert Rogers thinks his wife was targeted, and he found out in the most devastating way possible. “After she went into a coma, I started answering all the phone calls,” he said. Rogers says since she gave money in the past, telemarketers kept calling and kept asking for more money. “I was getting 3, 4, 5 calls a day,” he said.

And after his wife died in October of 2019, the calls didn’t stop. “Really a slap in the face,” Rogers said.

The BBB of Wisconsin says Rogers is not alone, and many of the complaints they’ve gotten have centered around the Police Officer Defense Alliance. The BBB gave us a letter sent to one of the people who complained. Part of their complaint is that it looked like a bill or invoice. “It looked like a water bill or something,” Rogers said.

The address on the letter sent to the BBB asks people to mail a donation to a post office box in Butler, WI. But we found that the money isn’t going to stay in Wisconsin, it’s headed to Las Vegas.

The PODA website lists itself as a political action committee in Las Vegas, Nevada. The website says they “identify and promote any lawmakers” who help police officers. Political Action Committees are perfectly legal, but a number of people like Charlie Lewis, who sent in a complaint to the BBB, say the phone calls they get represent PODA as a charity. “They said they provide legal defense for police who are going through legal proceedings,” Lewis said.

Lewis says the idea of “backing the blue” compelled him to give to PODA “I’m a strong supporter of the police,” he said. But in this case, only a tiny percentage of the money is going to help police. CBS58 obtained data from the Federal Election Commission, which regulates PACs. It shows that in 2019, PODA raised more than $2.4M, but listed almost $2.3M in expenses, those expenses include large payments to telemarketers.

The Center for Public Integrity also investigated Pollack and PODA. They found that from 2017 to the middle of 2019, William Pollack was part of four PACs that raised $4M over that time period, and $3.7M of that went to the telemarketers that raised the money. Pollack and his wife pocketed $150K. Jim Temmer, President and CEO of the Wisconsin BBB says this is pretty standard “When you use a telemarketer, even if it’s not a scam and they are employed by the charity, they can keep 70-80-even-90 percent of your donation,” Temmer said.

According to the PODA mailer, Officer William Pollack is their CEO. He was a patrol officer for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department from 2014 through 2019. Officer Misael Parra with the LVMPD Office of Public Information says Pollack separated from the department earlier this year, and declined further comment.

While he is not a Las Vegas cop anymore, 2020 FEC filings show Pollack is still raising money, and still paying the same telemarketers. We tried to contact Pollack through the PODA website, our emails were not returned.

If you want to make a donation to help police, call the non-emergency line or email your local department, they will be happy to guide you to charities that support them. Or before you give, do some research “You just have to be very leery and not give with your heart alone, use your head,” Temmer said.

The best way to beat a telemarketer is to not answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize.

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