‘The Root of All Kinds of Evil’ still thrives

Curtis K. Shelburne

I’m not sure it would be particularly appropriate for me to begin, “There should be a special place in hell for . . .”

So I won’t. But I’m tempted to. (And there really should.)

A fine older lady and dear friend (who I’d nominate for a special place in heaven when the time comes) has been getting fund-raising letters. So have we all! And many are legitimate.

But it seems to me that a good many, and even some of the legitimate ones, are just too slick. I don’t trust “slick.” At best, it makes me wish legitimate charities would waste less money on fancy, formulaic fund-raising and the companies that produce such. At worst, it makes my skin crawl. I want to put my hand over my wallet and back away slowly.

But the bulk mail plea for shekels that my friend just got is not what I’d call legitimate. I would definitely call it “slick.” It’s probably just barely legal. Just barely. An Internet search reveals that a number of states have filed cases against its senders. Few if any have won. So the scam mailings go on.

The top portion of the fund-raising letter is a real check for $2.50 made out to my friend and drawn on what is probably a real bank (with very low standards) from the account of “The Athlete’s Foot Disease Fund.”

Not really. The scammers’ actual account, one of several set up by their several “charity funds,” uses the name of a genuine and genuinely terrible disease. It even says that this “Fund” is a program of . . . and they use the actual name of their larger scamming organization.

Read the fine print on the back and they’ll tell you they’ve filed forms to be able to solicit legally as a non-profit organization, and that they’re also scamming (not their word) in the name of three other horrible diseases. They are working tirelessly, no doubt, to “radically alter” our healthcare system to “serve the interests of the American public.” Read more closely and you’ll find that over 75% of what they take in is used for fund-raising and a good chunk of the 25% left is devoted to “public education in conjunction with fund-raising appeals.” Very little (probably none, truly) goes to actually fighting the disease.

And, oh, yes, they’ll be happy to help you include them in your will so they can go on scamming you after your death. They kindly include the words you can use to add a codicil to your will without having to re-draw it (which would involve a lawyer). They’re very helpful.

Most people don’t like to throw away checks. Many good people will return the $2.50 check and add a donation. And the scammers (again, just a little Internet research will give you the head thief’s name and history of thievery) laugh all the way to the bank. Oh, how I wish everyone would just cash these checks! (But is that safe? Dunno.)

I do know there is justice in the next world. If there is any here, the thieves will come down with some combination of the diseases in whose names they are fleecing the good-hearted and naive.

Some things never change. The “root of all kinds of evil” still thrives.