Breast cancer supporters warned about ‘pink’ scams

“Think before you pink” this month, (and all year long) say breast cancer advocates and consumer experts.

“Some businesses turn everything pink, but make sure you buy something that’s actually supporting the cause, because it can be a gimmick. Do research to make sure it’s legit,” said local anchorwoman and breast cancer advocate, Vanessa Echols.

“On the flip side, it’s great to see pink at all of these events because it’s an opportunity to educate people and remind them to go get a mammogram,” she said.  

Pink gear will be out in force this weekend during the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks on Saturday at various locations throughout Central Florida. The walks aim to unite communities, honor those touched by the disease and raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research, treatment and prevention. The Orlando walk is the largest in the nation with more than 65,000 attendees expected.

The walks mark the end of the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which was founded in the 1980s and later became associated with the pink ribbon and the color pink, in general.

The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the Estée Lauder make-up company first popularized the pink ribbon in the early 1990s. It came on the heels of the red AIDS awareness ribbons and the yellow ribbons for deployed troops.

Most breast cancer organizations attribute the spirit behind the pink ribbon to breast cancer survivor and advocate Charlotte Hayley, who died at age 91 in 2014.

In 1991, Haley began tying peach ribbons to postcards that read: “The National Cancer Institute’s annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.”

Corporate interests noted Haley’s efforts and tried to partner with her to expand on her grassroots campaign, but she declined. To get around it, the pink ribbon was born and marketed to the masses.

But federal regulators, the Better Business Bureau and advocacy groups warn breast cancer supporters to be careful when buying pink merchandise.

Think before you pink: TIPS

• Ask questions. Find out what portion of the purchase price will be donated to the charity. When will the charity receive the donated amount? What exactly is being funded? Are donations to the charity from the business capped? When is the last day to donate? Confirm the charity’s corporate partners. Many national breast cancer charities list corporate partners and sponsors on their website. Check to make sure the business you’re purchasing from is associated with the charity.

• Stop and think about the product that you are purchasing. Is it something that you want or need? If the answer is no, consider making a donation directly to the breast cancer charity of your choice.

• Keep an eye out for copycat charities. If you suspect a scam involving a ‘look-a-like charity,” do not give. Be watchful for names, logos, slogans or colors, which are similar to the legitimate charity. Be wary of bold claims such as “100 percent of donations will go to the charity.” A disclosure should be provided that includes the actual or estimated purchase price amount the charity will receive directly.

• Check out the charity online. You can go to websites such as CharityNavigator.org to investigate.