Has a veteran charity scam called you?
Typically, any phone scam that tries to steal money from innocent people is terrible. But the rash of scams posing as charities for veterans is especially detestable.
These scams prey on people’s generosity by tricking them into thinking their money, cars, boats, and other donations will go toward helping veterans. In most cases, these fake veterans charities take most or all of the contributions for themselves.
Last Thursday, the FTC announced a total of 100 enforcement actions against these types of fake veterans charities with the help of officials in all 50 states and released a PSA video warning about these scams.
How to protect yourself from fake charity schemes
There are a few simple methods you can use to keep charity schemes away from your wallet.
Get a scam call blocker
Many of these fake charities used robocalls to reach potential victims. Apps like RoboKiller learn which numbers scammers call from and which ones legitimate charities use, even if they look like a local number or a 1-800 number.
If scammers spoof a new number and RoboKiller users recognize it as a scam, that number quickly becomes blacklisted.
Take these proactive steps recommended by the FTC
Source: FTC and States Combat Fraudulent Charities That Falsely Claim to Help Veterans and Servicemembers
Research the charity.
Sometimes a simple search for the charity will tell you all you need to know. Articles about the organization, reviews, and having a legitimate website with their 501(c)(3) nonprofit number is a quick way to gauge their authenticity.
Hint: If you can’t find a website and information that explicitly states they’re a 501(c)(3) organization, it could be a for-profit scam posing as a charity.
Look up ratings and reports on these websites:
Never pay by gift card or wire transfer.
Legitimate charities won’t ask for gift cards or wire transfer, and they’ll always be able to give you receipts for tax deductions.
Watch out for names that look like well-known charities.
As you’ll see below, a common scamming practice is to use a name that sounds official or closely imitates a legitimate organization.
Ask these questions the FTC recommends
Real charities will have answers to these questions, but scammers will often struggle to answer them. If the caller is vague, be wary.
- What’s the charity’s website, address, and mission?
- How much of your donation will go directly to services that help veterans, rather than fundraising?
- How much of your donation will be used for the specific programs you want to support?
- If supporting veterans in your own community is important to you, ask how the charity spends money in your area.
Look for these red flags
The FTC put together a list of warning signs you should pay attention to.
- Refusing to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, costs, and how the donation will be used.
- Won’t provide proof that a contribution is tax deductible.
- Thanks you for a previous pledge you don’t remember making.
- Uses high-pressure tactics like trying to get you to donate immediately, without giving you time to think about it and do your research.
- Asks for donations in cash, gift cards, or asks you to wire money.
- Offers to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect the donation immediately.
- Guarantees sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. Legally, you never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.
Avoid these charities who recently settled suits with the FTC
If these names sound like real charities, that’s the point. Most scam organizations will choose a name that looks official and closely resembles another legitimate company or charity.
- Help the Vets
- American Disabled Veterans Foundation
- Military Families of America
- Veterans Emergency Blood Bank
- Vets Fighting Breast Cancer
- Veterans Fighting Breast Cancer
- Veterans of America
- Vehicles for Veterans LLC
- Saving Our Soldiers
- Donate Your Car
- Donate That Car LLC
- Act of Valor
- Medal of Honor
Do your part: Report veteran charity scams to the Federal Trade Commission
If you suspect a call from someone who claimed to represent a charity might be lying or that the charity itself is a scam, report it to the FTC. The more information you can give them, the better. This includes the fundraiser’s name, phone number, website, address, and any other info they gave you.
The more information the FTC has on scammers, the more likely they’ll be able to shut the scammers down.