Buffalo, NY - We have a cautionary tale from our Tipline about the need to carefully check your credit card charges and statements because mistakes can be made even by a very worthy charity.
A man from Niagara County contacted us because of the big surprise he got when he donated to help people out after the Oklahoma tornadoes.
Arnie Jonathan is a generous person who really wanted to help the suffering people in Oklahoma but there was some real "donation inflation" for him.
He watched a benefit concert with Blake Shelton on Channel 2 and NBC back in late May. Arnie then phoned in a $25 dollar donation to the United Way using his credit card number.
But when he checked his charges, he discovered it had suddenly welled to a $2,500 dollar donation.
He contacted his credit card company which offered to dispute the charge for him. But they also suggested calling the national United Way and that's when the frustration really began. Jonathan says he had to make three separate calls over a week before a United Way supervisor refunded his money. And even then there was some confusion. Because of his ordeal, Arnie told the United Way he wanted the entire amount including the original 25 dollars refunded. He decided instead to make a donation directly to a church in hard hit Moore, Oklahoma.
Jonathan says United Way kept the $25 dollars before he had to contact them again for the refund. He also learned through Facebook that a local woman saw he original $10 dollar donation go up to $100 dollars before it was refunded.
Jonathan says "With all the scams that are going on today of course you immediately get that sick feeling in your stomach like you've just been taken for 25 - hundred dollars. No it wasn't a good feeling at all. And then the worst feeling was not getting satisfaction immediately or within a certain time. I didn't feel I had to wait for three days for a phone call which was never returned...that I had to be persistent or this wouldn't have been taken care of."
Today United Way Spokesman Felipe Benitez acknowledged there were mistakes when an outside company was hired to run call centers during and after the concert. He says some operators apparently misunderstood how to record those phoned in donations. They made entries for cents as well as dollars instead of just rounding off. So Arnie's $25 dollars grew zeros and became $2500.
Benitez says these errors occurred with less than one percent of the phone pledges. But he also admits there was initial confusion at the United Way about how to handle refunds in such cases. He says it has been cleared up now with audits to double check the amounts and attorneys involved to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Benitez also says the United Way apologizes to any donor who saw this mistake occur with their account and for any confusion with refund requests.
That's again why you should always check your credit card statements to make sure they're correct and you recognize all the charges.
So please donate to charity but just do it carefully.