Bill Neinast

Book of the Month Clubs are fading into history.  They are being replaced by Scam of the Month Clubs.

Scam of the week may be more appropriate.  Hardly a week passes without another news item about scammers preying on the unwary.

The hottest scam at the moment are calls from bogus IRS agents threatening dire consequences if some alleged back taxes are not paid immediately.  

These fake IRS agents replaced the ersatz police officials calling a few months ago claiming to be holding a grandchild who needed immediate bail money.

Computer owners may have been plagued with emails purporting to be from friends stranded in a foreign country.  All of their money, credit cards, and passports had been stolen.  Please help, they pleaded, by wiring a thousand dollars or two.

Then there will be an occasional report about the old pigeon drop being alive and well.  That is where a stranger approaches with an offer to share the wad of money he just found in the parking lot.  You, of course, have to hand over your own wad to demonstrate your good faith.

These scams get more than adequate attention in the print and electronic media.  Much broader and more frequent scams, however, are rarely mentioned.  These are the scams delivered to your front door by the Postal Service.

A post office box without at least one solicitation letter is a rare find.  Many of these pleas for contributions are from charities never heard of before.  

These letters may include a token to make you feel guilty if you keep it without making a  donation.  Look, for example, at the desk drawers so full of return address labels that they can never be used up in a lifetime.

For a while, the daily mail was so full of pleas for cash to help veterans that it appeared there was at least one charity for each man and woman who ever wore the nation’s military uniform in Iraq or Afghanistan.

One of the more recent letters pleading for help raised more red flags than usual.  It is from “Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt, PhdFounder and Servant, Pray in Jesus’ Name.”

The letter starts with, “I endured a misdemeanor court-martial, lost my home, pension, and 26 year career, all because I took a stand for religious liberty and dared to pray ‘in Jesus’ name’ in uniform.”  Claims in the rest of the letter are even more outlandish.

His “token” to encourage a donation is a copy of The Gospel of John from the Bible.

The outrageousness of the letter led to a little research.  The real story of Klingenschmitt is vastly different from the letter.  

He was convicted in a court martial, but not for praying in Jesus’ name.  He was disciplined for disobedience of an order--a serious military offense--not to wear his uniform at a political rally.  

Research the man for a completely different picture from the one painted in his letter.  You might conclude, as I did, that this is one man who does not deserve a dime of charity.

So here’s the perspective.

There are many charities and organizations with admirable records.  The Red Cross, Salvation Army, and USO are several at the national level that come to mind.  Attempting to list those at the local level is too risky to try, as several very worthy ones might be forgotten.

Support for the well known organizations with unassailable records should not be watered down by falling for some of the scams mentioned here.

How many Klingenschmitts are out there?

Keep the spending local.


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