Phone scammers posing as breast cancer charity in the Triad

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Breast Cancer Awareness Month is in full swing, but a group of scammers is posing as a breast cancer charity and trying to get your money over the phone.

There have been a number of reports of it happening in Winston-Salem.

This call comes in from a 919 area code and the caller says they're with the group "Breast Cancer Services." We looked all over online and checked multiple charity data bases, and there isn't a group with that name anywhere in North Carolina.

When Mary Matthews picked up her phone this week, she didn't expect to find a scammer on the other line.

"She was very, very pleasant," Matthews said.

But something didn't seem right when the caller couldn't answer Matthews' questions.

"I said, 'Stop right there. I know that you're a scam, and you should be ashamed of yourself,'" she said.

Matthews is a nurse and a two-time breast cancer survivor, and she understands how someone could fall for this phony call.

"Cancer has a very emotional connotation to it, so you think, 'Oh my gosh yes, I do want to help people who have cancer,'" she said. "So people open up their pocketbooks out of their good hearts to scammers."

The call comes in like this. The scammers say as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, they're asking for a small, one-time donation to "Breast Cancer Services" to help women get the drugs they can't afford. When people decline to donate, the caller gets angry and hangs up.

If any charity reaches out to you asking for money, Tara O'Brien, the CEO of Cancer Services in Winston-Salem, says to do your research first.

"It's just making sure you're listening to your head and your heart," she said.

Go online and look for a website, Twitter and Facebook page associated with that group. Look on websites like "Guide Star" that assess how nonprofits spend their money.

Don't be afraid to ask the caller questions, like what percentage of funds go to programs versus management or fundraising, or in this case, to drugs for cancer patients.

"Say, 'OK, you say you're going to help access medications. How specifically do you do that? I just want to learn more about that?' And really try to get them to be descriptive about what that is," O'Brien said. "If they're legitimately raising money, they should be able to answer any question you throw at them."

O'Brien says if you're hesitating about donating money, there are other ways to help cancer patients.

"When you are supportive, not just with your checkbook, but with your time, you're helping the whole community," she said. "You really are creating a spirit of giving and compassion that spreads beyond your single action."

If you get a call you think is suspicious or could be a scam, the best thing to do is write down the phone number and call police to report it.

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