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Press Releases

County Warns Consumers and Businesses About Lost Pet and Lost Child “Donation” Boxes in Stores

For Immediate Release: Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) has initiated an effort to educate consumers and retail businesses regarding the true nature of certain “donation” boxes” that may be displayed in area retail stores and restaurants.


These boxes typically post a photograph of a pet or a child, accept cash payments, and offer candy in return.  Many businesses in Montgomery County may allow these boxes to be displayed in their stores and many consumers may put money into these boxes – under the mistaken belief that they are making a charitable contribution to help find lost pets or children.

However, these so-called “donation” boxes are actually a for-profit business venture primarily designed to generate revenue for the owner of these boxes.  This business model has been seen before in other jurisdictions and has been investigated by other regulatory agencies.

“Unfortunately, businesses and consumers may not take the time to fully read and research the information printed on these boxes,” said OCP Director Eric Friedman.  “The overall impression created by these boxes clearly is misleading and certainly has the tendency or capacity to deceive both the consumers who contribute money, and the businesses who allow these boxes to be displayed.”

An anonymous tip alerted the OCP to the presence of these boxes in Montgomery County. The OCP spoke with businesses in areas where the boxes had been located to alert them about the issue. The OCP is working with business organizations to spread the word more broadly.

State law provides that a real charitable donation device or container must disclose the name and address of the charitable organization.

If anyone sees a box like this, they are encouraged to report it to the OCP by submitting an online complaint or by calling the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection at 240-777-3636. If contacting OCP by phone, the hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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Release ID: 17-439
Media Contact: Lorraine Driscoll, 240-777-6507