Saturday, June 2, 2018

I Got Robocalled

Twice this month, I received a robocall, supposedly from the American Coalition for Injured Veterans.

The voice, which I really can't refer to as "the caller", identified itself as "Chris". It was obviously programmed to react to specific words or phrases with a set response. Even when I didn't speak, the robocall asked me if I was still there.

The number displayed in my caller ID was 808-400-0492 and Googling the number revealed that a number of people had also been called and had reported it as a robocaller.

As far as the Hawaii-based phone number is concerned, it is not spoofed. You can actually call them back, but you won't speak to a real person. Instead, you'll get the robocall back on the phone. According to this site, the carrier for this number is Neutral Tandem - Hawaii, LLC.

Who Are They?

So, who is the "American Coalition for Injured Veterans"? Are they an organization that helps injured veterans, as the name suggests?

No, they aren't and their website is pretty honest about it. Here's what they say about themselves:
"American Coalition for Injured Veterans PAC is a non-partisan independent expenditure-only group established under Section 527 of the tax code. Through the support of like-minded concerned citizens we have pledged to push and fight government for stronger legislation and elections of candidates that support our Veterans,"
So, its purpose isn't to specifically help injured veterans, but as a lobbying group and to help elect candidates to public office. The website, Open Secrets, has labelled this organization as a Super PAC, which means that its purpose is to raise unlimited funds from people, corporations and unions but isn't allowed to contribute or coordinate with specific candidates. It was registered with the Federal Election Commission  on 27 December 2017.

So, their name is deceptive, to say the least. This group isn't about directly helping injured veterans, but is intended to influence political elections and decision-making.

Who's Running It

There's nothing on the website that identifies anyone working within the organization, so you don't know who is in charge. Fortunately, there are other ways to find out.

The FEC filings mention one person as both Treasurer and Custodian of Records; this person is also listed as the registrant of their website and his name is Zachary Bass.

Checking the Internet for any mention of Zachary Bass being any sort of advocate on veterans' issues didn't reveal anything. However, Zachary is somewhat prolific in creating websites
  • for volunteer firefighters
  • for firefighters, healthcare workers, military, law enforcement and teachers
  • for police and first responders
  • for "American Coalition for Injured Veterans" 
  • another site for veterans
There may be more, but I think these are enough to show a pattern. Mr Bass has set-up several websites that claim to exist to help specific groups of people and these groups are widely appreciated and supported across the United States, especially veterans and first responders. However, none of these sites include information regarding who is is actually running the organization. Instead, they include what basically amounts to clip art with a list of statistics thrown onto them, apparently to tug at people's heartstrings.

A rather shameless example of the use of clip art is this picture

Which is a commonly-used stock photo, sourced from Getty Images.

Seriously, Zachary? You're so concerned about veterans that you click-around the Web for some stock pictures to post on your website, instead of getting a camera and taking a picture of a wounded veteran yourself?

Aside from their homepage, they only have a Twitter account. They have no presence on Facebook, yet.

Where Are They?

Clicking on the Contact link at the top of their page provides a physical address, which is actually a post office:
American Coalition for Injured Veterans
​1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Ste 6701
Washington D.C. 20044
and they want all donations mailed to this address, which is actually a UPS Store.
National Mail Processing Center at:
2931 S. 108th St, #274
​West Allis, WI 53227
Okay, according to the website registration, Zachary Bass lives in Baltimore, MD. Since West Allis is almost 800 miles away from Baltimore, I'm wondering why he has the donations go there, instead of to his PO box in Washington DC? Who is supposed to be picking-up the donations at the UPS Store in Wisconsin?

Does Zachary Bass want to let us in on what is going to be done with donors' money?

My Conclusions

I've heard about various groups that claimed to be raising money to help veterans, only for those groups to be revealed as frauds. Those people used vets as props in their quest to line their pockets, evoking images of gravely-wounded veterans, listing the tragic statistics of post-service life for many of them and plastering patriotic images all over their websites and literature.

Add to that, American Coalition for Injured Veterans' deceptive name, seeming to be about wounded veterans, when really it's just a political action committee.

It's possible that Zachary Bass really cares about veterans, first responders, etc and is really out to try to help them. But, when you resort to robocalling people, using clip art and not telling people who's running your organization, I'm a little doubtful of your honesty and I'm left wondering what are your true intentions.

There is so much about Zachary Bass' little organization that smells bad to me that I feel like I need to wash out my nostrils with lye soap!

My Recommendations

If anyone is really interested in donating their money to a reputable organization that helps veterans, here's a list of groups that have received high ratings from Charity Watch:

If you get a call from "Chris" at the American Coalition for Injured Veterans, just hang-up and go make a donation to one of the organizations I've listed.

Duane Browning

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