Monday, July 23, 2007

Sketchy Fundraising by Barack?

I got a phone call a couple days ago from Barack Obama's campaign. Here's how the conversation went:

Phone rings. Number is "Unavailable". Sadly, I have a client who blocks their phone number, so I must answer these calls.

Telemarketer: Hi, this is so-and-so calling you back from the Barack Obama campaign. How are you today?

Jamie: I don't remember calling the Barack Obama campaign. Umm... I'm doing fine. At least I was until I answered this call.

Telemarketer: You made a pledge for $25.00. Your pledge is as important as ever. Will you still be able to fulfill your pledge?

Jamie: I definitely don't remember making a pledge. I'm a little confused. When did I make this pledge?

Telemarketer: Um, let's see, you made it in April over the phone.

Jamie: Hmm. Three months ago, things were a little crazy. It is possible that I drunk-dialed the Obama campaign, made a pledge, and blacked it out. I better dig deeper. This is strange, because I don't remember making a pledge. I also don't remember getting anything in the mail from you. Can you tell me the address you have for me?

Telemarketer: Reads address to me. The address is one I have not used in more than two years; I've moved three times since then.

Jamie: Something is fishy here. If I made a pledge over the phone, and they didn't ask me to pay right then, why wouldn't they have my correct address? Would I really have committed to giving money to the campaign, yet not have given them any way to collect the money other than calling me back? Would anyone really take a pledge without verifying the address of the donor? Excuse me, that address is more than two years old. I don't remember making a pledge, and if I had, I can't understand why you would not have my current address.

Telemarketer: Oh, er, hmm, I'm sorry, I guess there must be some mistake. Goodbye!

Well. I suppose there could be some scenario under which I had made a pledge, didn't give them my current address, asked that they call me back in three months to collect the money, and then completely forgot about it.

Or, on the other hand, the much more plausible scenario: Obama's campaign is engaging in some sleazy fundraising. Tell people they "pledged" a sufficiently small amount of money, and most people, wishing to honor a pledge that they can't say for sure they didn't make, will just pay it.

I'm going with #2.


Anonymous said...

Possibility #3: some scam artist, unaffiliated with any group other than possibly the mob, calls up households trying to get sensitive financial information (or even actual money!) over the phone. Why would these people do this? Well, say they are told they already pledged the money, and you just want to "reconfirm." How do you convince people they already pledged, you ask? Pass yourself off as some organization to which many people give money. Say, the United Way. Or a political campaign. Which politician? The one that did record fundraising from 250,000 donors last quarter (Obama). That's only 1 in 1000 households, which may seem like low odds you're going to get somebody that actually donated to Obama on any random call, but in the telemarketing/phishing scam world, 0.1% is tremendously good odds!

Jamie said...

Could be, could be.

The only question is, if this call was from a scammer, why didn't they just ask me for the money straight up, acting like a legitimate fundraiser? That is - don't pretend I contributed before, just ask me for some money as if they really were the campaign, and ask for my credit card.

Of course, by the same token... if it really was Obama, why didn't they, too, just ask me for the money.

It's just weird. It's weird if it's Obama, and it's weird if its a scammer.