Kay Bransford’s elderly mom had a generous but lonely heart — her husband had passed away recently –  so she began donating to charities that sent her solicitations by mail. Pretty soon, that led to an avalanche of junk mail. At its worst, Bransford spent her visits with mom scrambling to hide about 200 solicitations every month — while mom was hoarding them.

The experience was so jarring that Bransford incorporated charity scam and junk mail awareness as part of a business she runs helping families handle finances for elderly family members.

She’s heard even worse stories from clients, often about professional fund-raisers taking advantage of those facing cognitive decline. Some charities call and lie to victims, telling them they’ve already pledged donations.  In another case, she had a client who would rattle off a memorized credit card pretty much to anyone with a good charity story.

“When I visited the (one) time…I hear her, she gets up and she answers the phone and she gives the credit card number,” she said. “I actually opened up the credit card bill and I see that she’s given away over $2000…money she did not have.”

In this episode of The Perfect Scam, we explore the murky world of charity fundraising. It’s full of actors who stay on the right side of the law but do things that would make you cringe.  After hearing from Bransford, I interview Laurie Styron, Director of CharityWatch. She has a lot of good advice for people taking…

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