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Hingham phone scam claims to help local veterans

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  October 24, 2013 03:18 PM

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Hingham police are warning residents of an ongoing phone scam that claims to be helping local veterans.

According to an email notification sent out by Hingham police, several residents have received phone calls from an organization that says it's collecting for “Hingham veterans”

“Please be aware there are currently NO Hingham Veterans organizations soliciting donations of any kind over the telephone,” Hingham police said in the alert.

Police have asked that residents get the company name, address, and telephone number in order to report the information to the Hingham Department of Veterans Services. Police plan to pass along this information to the Attorney General’s Office.

According to Hingham Veterans Service Officer Keith Jermyn, the people behind the calls are the Vietnam Veterans of Massachusetts, which hired a firm named Focal Point Consulting Group to solicit money on their behalf.

Although the organization is real, and a portion of the funding raised is going to veterans, none of those veterans are in Hingham.

“To hire a firm that when [a residents asks], ‘Is it going to Hingham veterans,’ and they say, ‘Yes,’ that could be fraudulent. That’s not what they wrote on their script,” Jermyn said, referring to documents Focal Point turned in to the state.

Jermyn added that he has never once received a check from the Vietnam Veterans of Massachusetts or Focal Point Consulting in the three years he has been in this job.

Jermyn and others have called the attorney general’s office to alert them of the misleading statements, which keep piling up. On Wednesday, three people called the veterans’ office with complaints of the solicitations. On Thursday, 15 more calls had come in.

Not only are the calls misleading in terms of which veterans are receiving the money, Jermyn said, but only a small portion of the collected money goes to any veterans.

In this case, 30 percent of the revenues are turned in to Veterans, said Jermyn, citing state records. The remainder goes to overhead, including executives’ salaries and drivers who pick up the checks.

“In Hingham when I take a donation, which I don’t solicit over the phone, but if someone walks in, 100 percent of that goes to a veteran or a widow or an orphan in the form of shelter, food assistance, clothing,” Jermyn said. “It should be something as simple of getting someone a T pass so they can go to a food bank or job interview. It seems that simple, but it’s really hard when these other agencies tap in to that lifeline.”

Jermyn said that situations like this keep residents from donating altogether, and is discouraging for people whose hearts are in the right place.

“People prey on the sympathies of good-intended, well-meaning people all over the commonwealth," Jermyn said.

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