Sentinel Progress

New program educates about fraudulent charities

PICKENS COUNTY — South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson joins the Federal Trade Commission and law enforcement officials and charity regulators from every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam and Puerto Rico in announcing “Operation Donate with Honor,” a sweeping new donor education campaign to help donors spot and avoid fundraising solicitations that falsely promise their donations will help veterans and service members.

The new campaign is being released in conjunction with announcements of new and recent law enforcement actions by the FTC and many states.

Every year, grateful Americans repay the sacrifices made by those who serve in the U.S. armed forces with contributions to charities that promise to deliver needed help and services to veterans and service members. Most of these charities live up to fundraising promises, but a few attract donations by lying about help and support not actually delivered, Wilson said.

In the process, they harm not only well-meaning donors, but also the many legitimate charities engaged in important and vital work on behalf of veterans and service members, he stated.

“South Carolina is one of the most patriotic and generous states in the nation, so this campaign is especially important for South Carolinians who are happy to support charities that help veterans,” said Wilson, who is a 22-year veteran of the South Carolina National Guard and served in Iraq. “We want to make sure that South Carolinians’ donations are actually helping the people they’re supposed to, not lining the pockets of con artists.”

Operation Donate with Honor was developed by the FTC and the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO), the association of state offices charged with oversight of charitable organizations and charitable solicitations in the United States. The initiative pairs enforcement actions with an education campaign, in English and Spanish, to help consumers recognize charitable solicitation fraud and identify legitimate charities. This includes a new video that highlights tips on how to research charities on giving wisely to veterans organizations, officials said.

Veterans fundraising fraud schemes target potential donors online, via telemarketing, direct mail, door-to-door contacts, and at retail stores, falsely promising to help homeless and disabled veterans, to provide veterans with employment counseling, mental health counseling or other assistance, and to send care packages to deployed service members. Many schemes solicit nationwide.

The national education campaign being announced today is intended to help potential donors, regardless of where or how they choose to donate, learn how to spot fraudulent and deceptive solicitations and make sure their contributions actually benefit veterans and service members.

“It’s important to give to help the charities that are doing great work helping veterans and military members every day, but please make sure you check out that charity first,” said Attorney General Wilson.

Don’t rely on a sympathetic sounding name to make a donation, he said.

When donating to charity, among other things, Attorney General Wilson advises to ask for the charity’s name, website and physical location; ask how much of any donation will go to the charitable program you want to support; and to check out the charity on the South Carolina Secretary of State’s website at: https://www.scsos.com/Search%20Charities.

It’s also a good idea to search the charity’s name online with the word “scam” or “complaint” and see what other people say about it, he said.

Check out the charity’s ratings at the Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Watch, or Charity Navigator; never paying with cash, a gift card, or by wiring money; and considering paying by credit card — which is the safest option for security and tax purposes — can help “weed out” the dishonest ones, he said.

Donors and business owners can also find information to help them donate wisely and make their donations count at FTC.gov/Charity.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.
https://www.sentinelprogress.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_AGWilson-Headshot-1-774×1024.jpgSouth Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson. Courtesy image

By Kasie Strickland

kstrickland@championcarolinas.com

Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.