Beware 'Charity' Seeking Donations for Soldiers

soldierIt's a heartfelt appeal: Give the person who comes to your door some money, and in turn a U.S. soldier will receive a care package or backpack containing snack food, personal hygiene items, paperback books, small novelty items, even new underwear.

But the Oregon Department of Justice is warning consumers to be wary. It's received several complaints about a company named Smartraiser that's soliciting door-to-door in the state under the guise of being a charity that sends care packages to U.S. troops serving overseas."Smartraiser is not a charity," Tony Green, spokesman for the department, said in a statement. In fact, it's a for-profit company that doesn't offer financial reports on what percentage of the money it receives goes toward supplying care packages, Green said.

Money given to Smartraiser isn't tax-deductible and no government body endorses or is associated with the company, he added.

Smartraiser, headquartered in Pennsylvania according to Better Business Bureau records, couldn't be reached for comment. However, in an email statement sent from its website, Smartraiser said it isn't a charity, and added:

"The literature which is offered to the customers clearly states Smartraiser is a for profit company as does the website. Smartraiser does not solicit for nor does it accept donations. Smartraiser hires the services of subcontractors to sell items offered. Smartraiser is registered to do business in Oregon. We have made contact with [Oregon Department of Justice] and asked that the story be retracted."

In addition to operating in Oregon, Smartraiser has reportedly solicited consumers in Pennsylvania, Hawaii, New Jersey, Colorado, Tennessee, and Florida.

Brenda Linnington, director of the BBB's Military Line, said consumers should be wary of doing business with Smartraiser. The company has an "F" rating with the BBB because it doesn't meet certain criteria, including not offering information on its website about how to contact representatives and not disclosing how funds are spent, Linnington told Consumer Ally.

Smartraiser's business practices are a cause for concern, she added. "It's the kind of thing we educate the military community about."

Linnington advises consumers to ask a lot of questions and get detailed information when talking to a Smartraiser rep. Avoid giving personal information. Then do research online before you make up your mind.

Inappropriate sales approaches can be reported to the BBB and the state attorney general's office.

"We see a lot of scams aimed at the military community," Linnington said. Military families have consistent paychecks and vulnerabilities during deployment, she said, adding it's nothing new for them to be singled out for approach along with their families and retirees.

For a related story, see "Debt Collectors Warned After Companies Target Military Personnel."
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