Bogus or real, some color runs make a fortune for their organizers: Internet Scambusters #672
Funds and fun get together in color runs -- 5-mile events in which runners get daubed in dyes and paints while raising money for charity.
At least, that's the theory. But the truth is that some runs are fakes and never happen, while others donate only a fraction of the proceeds to charity.
This week, we'll tell you how to check out these events, and we've a warning about a sudden surge in a well-known coercion scam.
Let's get started...
Sprint Away from these Fake Color Runs
Whenever you have to pay an entry fee for an event, you always need to feel sure you're getting what you pay for.
That goes for concert tickets offered by scalpers, beautiful baby photo competitions, poetry competitions and, most recently, color runs or fun runs.
There's always someone willing to charge you for something that's not quite what it seems.
Color runs are usually 5-mile or 5-kilometer events in which onlookers shower runners with colored powder or paint. It's inspired by the Holi Festival that takes place each year in India.
Sometimes, runners take part just for the fun of it. Other times, they aim to raise money for charity or, more likely, the race organizers donate some or part of the entry fee to a good cause.
But that's not what has always been happening recently.
Across the U.S. -- and in some other countries in Europe and South America -- runners have been hoodwinked into paying entry fees for events that simply didn't exist.
In other cases, color runs were cancelled at short notice and participants had difficulty getting their money back.
Many of these events are promoted online, with entry fees of $40 to $50. But quick checks with local police and government departments, who would have to be informed and issue permits for such events, show they know nothing about them.
These are out and out fakes. But other times, events that do have permits are cancelled on short notice and entrants find there's a "no refund" clause in the terms and conditions for the run.
Or they may be rescheduled in a different location some distance away from the original venue.
In yet other cases, the runs do actually take place but most or all of the money collected never finds its way to the charities the event is supposed to be supporting.
For example, a journalist investigating a color run in Alaska claimed that a meager contribution of only about $8,000 was earmarked for a designated charity, out of a total profit of $300,000 -- and that was after the charity supplied 250 volunteers to help organize and manage the event!
And in California, a survey of 35 runners by the Sacramento Bee newspaper found that only two knew the event was actually a for-profit run and that only a tiny fraction of the proceeds would go to charity.
One of the organizers of this particular event said that, in fact, most color runs are organized for profit.
Of course, that's not illegal or even a scam if the organizers are upfront about where the money goes, but often the truth is buried in the small print or not mentioned at all.
According to the digital open-platform magazine The Blot, color runs net an average $300,000 to $500,000.
"Race attendees should be aware that not all of their registration money is going towards the charities they are being exposed to while at the race but merely a non-disclosed portion of it," the magazine said.
"From a business standpoint, getting paid for other people to run 5k seems like a great deal."
So, the first lesson is that if you're a color runner, go into the event with your eyes open -- literally and figuratively.
If the organizers say or suggest the event is supporting a charity, look for information about the proportion that will be donated, or even ask the organizers.
Contact the charity itself and ask what their "take" will be.
If you don't like it or you can't find out, assume that there's a reason why you're not being told and let your conscience decide if you want to participate.
Here are a few more tips on how to avoid being tricked into paying for scam fun runs.
- Do an Internet search on the name of the race organizers to check their reputation. There are one or two well-known scam-run organizations whose names pop up over and over again. Give them a miss.
- Check with your local police department to see if they or relevant local agencies have issued a permit. If they haven't, the event is probably a fake.
- Make sure you read all the terms and conditions and the small print -- looking out for no-refund and other get-out clauses.
- Use a credit card to pay for your entry fee. That doesn't guarantee you'll get your money back if it's a scam but it puts you in a stronger position if you do have to dispute the charge.
A color run is supposed to be a fun run. If you can't be sure it's going to be exactly that, stay on the sidelines and keep your money in your pocket!
Alert of the Week
Law enforcement agencies around the country have been reporting a sudden upsurge in the jury duty scam.
A scammer posing either as a police officer or court official phones victims telling them they missed jury duty and failed to respond to several notifications.
They threaten imprisonment unless the victim pays a fine, usually via a money wiring service.
Courts don't operate this way so you can safely ignore this blatant scam -- but if you're worried, just get in touch with your local police department.
Please pass on this warning to others.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.