This post was inspired by Rafi's posting today, about an experience he had with a telemarketer soliciting him for a donation. I was going to comment there, but I think this merits a blog post of its own.
There are many stories of people abusing the name of a well known organization to solicit donations over the phone. Lemaan Achai has been the victim of this: they have stated many times that they never solicit funds over the phone, yet there's an organization called "Lemaan Achai (Rechovot)" that regularly phones people in Beit Shemesh, introducing themselves simply as "Lemaan Achai" (maybe mumbling the "Rechovot" part), and leveraging LA's good name in Beit Shemesh to get funds for themselves.
A few months ago, it occurred to me that is is impossible for me to know whether anybody who calls me unsolicited is actually representing the organization they say they are. If I wanted, I could open myself a PayPal or other merchant account and name it, say, "Yad Eliezer", then start phoning people up with a great sales pitch, get their credit card numbers and bill them as if I were the real Yad Eliezer. It would show up on their credit card statements as "Yad Eliezer", and nobody would be any the wiser.
Since then, I have refused point blank to give out my credit card info to anybody over the phone - even if I know the organization, and the caller insists that I've donated to them in the past, and all they want is for me to renew my donation! Who says that they didn't dupe me a year ago? How do I know that they really are who they say they are - especially if their caller ID is blocked, as most telemarketers are? Instead, what I do is I ask them for their website URL, or for them to send me a brochure in the mail so that I can mail them a check. It's actually a little disconcerting how few of these reps have actually followed through with this...
Bottom line: don't give your credit card information to anybody over the phone - unless you yourself initiated the call.