The Federal Trade Commission announced two major actions against allegedly fraudulent charities for veterans Thursday.
One alleged scam, known as Help the Vets, took in $20 million in donations intended for wounded and disabled veterans between 2014 and 2017, the FTC said.
Another solicited cars, boats and timeshares for several made-up veterans' charities.
In both cases, most of the donations were never passed along to veterans, according to the FTC.
A total of 100 enforcement actions were announced Thursday with the cooperation of officials in all 50 states. Some of the groups falsely promised to help disabled veterans, to provide employment counseling, or mental health counseling. Other false claims by the organizations included promising to send care packages to service members, the FTC said.
The Southern Arizona Better Business Bureau is joining is helping to monitor the situation.
"Americans have a strong interest in supporting charitable organizations helping veterans or active duty service members,” said H. Art Taylor, president and CEO, BBB Wise Giving Alliance. “Which is why it is particularly disheartening that we hear about recent government actions that identified misleading appeals from charities that claimed to help our service members. As with any charity appeal, we urge donors to exercise caution and check out organizations before making a giving decision.”
As potential donors respond to appeals from such organizations, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers the following advisory tips:
- Mistaken Identity: Watch out for name confusion. Many veterans’ charities include virtually the same words in different order or slightly different form.
- Check Outside Sources Before Giving: Visit Give.org to check out a charity’s trustworthiness by verifying that it meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. These standards address more than just finances; they also cover charity governance, results reporting, appeal accuracy, and donor privacy. Also, check with your state government’s charity registration agency, usually a division of either the attorney general’s office or secretary of state’s office.
- Avoid On-the-Spot Donation Decisions: Be wary of excessive pressure in fundraising. Don’t be pressured to make an immediate on-the-spot donation.
- Find Out What They Do: Don’t assume what the veterans organization does based on their name alone. Review the appeal carefully and see if it matches program and financial information appearing on the organization’s website.
- Recognize Telemarketing Cautions: Telemarketing can be a costly method of fundraising unless carefully managed. If interested in a call on behalf of a veterans’ charity, always check out the organization online before donating.
- Be Wary of Unusual Donation Transaction Options: Watch out if a charity solicitor asks for donors to send contributions using an unusual transaction method such as wire transfer, gift cards, or pre-paid debit cards. This could be a ruse to enable questionable solicitors to get funds quickly.
- Learn How Donated Items Will Be Used. If a veterans’ charity is soliciting for used clothing, cars, furniture and other in-kind gifts, find out how they benefit. Sometimes the charity receives only a small portion of the resale price of the item or may have a contractual arrangement to get a flat fee for every household pick-up, no matter what the contents.
- Seek Out Financial Information. Verify the accuracy of financial information in veterans’ organizations appeals. Check out the charity’s report on BBB’s Give.org or review the charity’s website for its latest financial information. The BBB Standards for Charity Accountability call for a charity to spend at least 65% of its total expenses on program service activities, as opposed to fundraising and administrative costs.
. For more tax information regarding charitable contributions visit http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Contributors .