CHOCTAW, Okla. - Debbie Foster didn't recognize the number. She answered anyway.
It was one of those pesky automated robocalls that disrupted Foster's day and tugged at her heart strings.
The robocaller claimed to be raising money for an organization by the name of Breast Cancer Health Council.
“My very, very dearest friend died from [breast cancer], and I was with her during chemotherapy," Foster said.
Don’t be fooled. It might sound like a charity, but it is not.
Breast Cancer Health Council is registered as a Political Action Committee, an organization that raises and spends money to elect and defeat political candidates.
PACs will use robocalls to collect a bunch of money, fast, without much oversight but they are required by law to register with the Federal Election Commission.
That means all their donations and spending are public.
“You should be able to go look at the 990s and legitimately read what they've been giving to,” said Hal Hoxie of the Butterfield Memorial Foundation.
Hoxie’s worked in fundraising for years and said it's perfectly legal for a PAC to solicit under a charitable sounding name.
“He's legitimately put these together without violating any laws, but his intention is nefarious at best,” Hoxie said.
In this case, the bread crumbs lead to a guy by the name of Zachary Bass.
The FEC filings list him as the treasurer for Community Health Council PAC, doing business as the Breast Cancer Health Council PAC.
According to FEC filings, the organization brought in over $771,000 in less than a year and spent nearly all of the money on donor outreach and media buys but most of the money doesn't appear to be helping breast cancer victims or research.
“It is deceptive marketing to get us to believe we're giving to breast cancer, which is a legitimate concern, and instead they've registered themselves under a PAC and they're making money,” Hoxie said.
Bass’s name is also tied to several other PACs.
We keep calling and leaving messages for Bass. So far, he hasn't called us back.
Foster can't stop the robocalls but, with October being breast cancer awareness month, she wants to put Oklahoma on alert.
“I know everybody in America has been touched by breast cancer, so they are going to automatically assume that these people are honorable,” she said.
Hoxie said it’s much safer for people to do their own research.
“Make contact with the company you thought was calling you and find out if they legitimately do those calls,” he said.
The In Your Corner bottom line:
- You have the power to control where your hard-earned cash goes.
- Donate it wisely.
- Check out a PAC.
- Check out a fundraiser or charity: OK Secretary of State, Charity Navigator, GuideStar