Your guess is as good as mine. In fact, advocacy is far from the word that comes to mind. It does present a dilemma though. Who are the real advocates and who are those who would pose as such to take your hard earned money? And how can you tell the difference?
My personal tips are these:
- If an organization refuses to share their Federal or State Tax Identification, you can bet they are not legitimate.
- If an organization is selling something and not divulging exactly how the profits are spent, back away slowly.
- Check with a local trustworthy organization if in doubt (Better Business Bureau, etc.)
Notorious scam artist Michael E. Robinson, Sr. (aka Mike Robinson, Michael Robinson, Jr) is on the move again. While he's buried his tracks from his past fraudulent organizations "Getafape.org" and "The Office of Autism Advocacy", he's created a new venture on Facebook called "The International Voice of Autism". He identifies himself there as "Mike Robinson". We're asked to believe that he is working with other parents on his "new" mission-This time, en Français as well as English.
Mike, as he's known by at this time, ventures around preying on families affected by Autism and Epilepsy. He posts numerous articles, makes comments under multiple identities and then attempts to take credit for helping on nationally known advocacy issues.
At face value, he's a pretty believable guy. He seems very knowledgeable about Autism, especially. He claims to be a parent of an Autistic child. But when you dig further, things become less plausible.
His claims range from being a "Registered United States Lobbyist", working for the US Department of Defense and a retired NASCAR driver. He claims to have helped hundreds of families win special education due process hearings. Wow! He's done an awful lot.
The problem is, none of the claims are verifiable. A Freedom of Information Act request was put through to the US Lobbyist Registrar. Mike is not and has never been a Lobbyist. Interestingly enough, there is a Michael E. Robinson in Washington DC who is a high powered Civil Rights attorney.
Mike must not have been a very noteworthy NASCAR driver. Because again, there's no record of him anywhere. Further he claims to have had a serious accident during a NASCAR race - yet another claim that cannot be substantiated. At one time, he was touting his familial relationship to legitimate NASCAR racer Shawna Robinson, claiming to be cousins. When approached, Shawna Robinson refuted this claim.
Mr. Robinson is also a very "traveled" man. One week he claimed to be residing in California. The next week, he lived in Hawaii. And during the time of his international moves, he's been photographed in New York City (if we are to believe his outlandish claims) and Paris, France.
And if this wasn't enough to get your warning bells a-chimin, Mike was once in business with known scam artist and now felon, Raymond G. Parenteau of Arizona. In fact, Mike and Raymond together created the GetaFape.org organization. I even had the esteemed pleasure of being "behind the scenes" of some of the initial work as Mike emailed me and asked me to be a part (prior to knowing that either man was a scam artist).
Thankfully by the time I received this, I had realized Mike was not legitimate. However, another parent has come forth as the person who signed on to work in the above mentioned capacity. Mike used her as a "case manager" who was assigned the task of finding clients (aka desperate families). She, herself, paid GetaFape and exorbitant amount of money to help on her child's case.
This mother worked day and night to promote the organization. She found clients who were willing to pay. However, as she would find out personally, Mike failed to provide anything to those families regardless of how much they paid him. In fact, he didn't show to meetings he was scheduled for sighting "more important" matters at a National level. It wasn't long after this mom also broke ties. But that wasn't to be the end of her contact with Mike. Mike stalked her online sending threats.
Go ahead and post all over, if you degrade my name any further I will come forward in a way you will not likeHe even went as far to send her PayPal bills for more money.
Money Request Details
Amount: $100.00 USD
Note: Since your husband is not going to pay and you have shown no want to pay your balance at all, would you mind terribly going on a payment plan ? I'm putting all those that have getafape contracts and balances due to OSEA on payment plans if they can't pay their balance. Thank youMike's been laying a bit low since Advocates Against Fraud in Advocacy investigated him. He was asked to state his side of the story and provide credentials, should they actually exist. However, he refused to provide any proof. Additionally, instead of attempting to clear his name, he went on a smearing campaign against the reporter who broke the story.
I bring this up again because though the authorities have been alerted, he is still in action. Facebook, MySpace, Yahoo and Google groups can all be wonderful places for advocates to meet up. Just remember that it's really easy to fake credentials and talk the proverbial talk.
Go with your gut and be warned. No matter what time it is in Chicago, it ain't got nothing to do with advocacy!