For Veterans Day, many Americans may choose to donate to charity organizations as an act of support. Americans are grateful for veterans’ service, but some scammers prey on their appreciation and generosity.
The FTC urges donors to be cautious of organizations that falsely claim to help veterans and service members, as millions of dollars have been exploited by fake charities in past years. If you’re not careful, your generous donation could easily end up in the wrong hands.
Fraud Is All Around Us
Anyone can fall victim to a fraud scheme. One alleged scam organization, Help the Vets, had a nationwide operation that claimed to provide healthcare for veterans, but instead pocketed 95% of every donation, racking up $20 million between 2014 and 2017.
Another organization, Veterans of America, made millions of illegal robocalls asking people to donate cars, real estate, or timeshares, falsely claiming that they would go to veterans and were tax deductible. The assets collected were sold for personal gain.
Thankfully, the FTC is cracking down, helping to combat fraudulent charities.
What You Can Do
There are several steps you can take to protect yourself from fraudulent organizations.
Ask Questions. If someone from an organization contacts you, don’t be afraid to ask how your money will be used, where the charity is located, and who they are. Finding out crucial information about the charity will help you make an informed decision.
Avoid Donating Over the Phone. Transactions over the phone can be sketchy since you won’t know who you’re talking to or where they are calling from. Unsolicited requests for money should be a red flag. Be extremely cautious of robocalls asking for donations over the phone.
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Never Send Cash or Wire Transfers. Cash is untraceable, so the safest way to keep track of your donations is through a credit card transaction or check. Real charities will not ask you to send a wire transfer, and they will always be able to provide a receipt.
Don’t Give Out Personal Information. Giving out too much personal information can make you a target of identity theft. If a representative asks for your date of birth or social security number to verify your donation, err on the side of caution.
Do Your Research. A simple internet search can provide you with all the information you need to know. Look at the charity’s reports and ratings, and see what other donors are saying about them. Don’t commit to giving money until you have reviewed the organization and can make an educated decision. The more you know, the better.
Report Fraudulent Charities. Watch out for names that only look like reputable organizations. If you believe an organization is trying to scam you, you should report it to to the Federal Trade Commission. Find a list of charities who recently settled suits with the FTC here.
Don’t Be a Victim
If a representative from that organization cannot provide detailed information on the charity or how your donation will be used, proceed with caution.
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Many charities do a great job supporting our veterans, but some try to take advantage of your generosity. Don’t donate to an organization unless you have done your research and can verify your money is going to the right place and is helping the right people.