"Operation False Charity" Law Enforcement Sweep
May 20, 2009
(Anchorage, AK). Acting Attorney General Richard Svobodny, along with the Federal Trade Commission and other law enforcers in at least 46 states, today announced "Operation False Charity," a nationwide, federal-state crackdown on fraudulent charities and charitable solicitors claiming to help police, firefighters, and veterans. Federal and state agencies will prosecute 60 law enforcement actions against fundraising companies, nonprofits, and individuals. The FTC and state agencies also released new education materials to help consumers recognize and avoid charitable solicitation fraud.
FTC Enforcement Actions
The FTC cases announced today include actions against defendants who allegedly tricked consumers into giving by claiming they were affiliated with law enforcement or veterans groups or misleading consumers about how much of the money would go to those groups. According to the FTC, the defendants used legitimate-sounding names to give their sham organizations a veneer of credibility. Their real goal, however, was to trick consumers into contributing money that the defendants used overwhelmingly to support themselves and their fundraisers.
State officials participating in the sweep include the Attorneys General of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Also participating were other state agencies that register and sometimes regulate charities, including the Secretaries of State of Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Washington, as well as the Georgia Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs, the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation, and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The FTC today issued a consumer alert providing tips about charities that solicit donations on behalf of veterans and military families. According to the alert, which can be found on the FTC Web site at www.ftc.gov/charityfraud, while many legitimate charities are soliciting donations to support the nation's military veterans, not all "charities" are legitimate. Some are operators whose only purpose is to make money for themselves. Others are paid fundraisers whose fees can use up most of the consumer's donation.
The new alert, "Supporting the Troops: When Charities Solicit Donations on Behalf of Vets and Military Families," offers the following tips to help consumers ensure that their donations go to a legitimate charity. Many of these tips apply to other charitable giving as well.
- Recognize that the words "veterans" or "military families" in an organization's name do not necessarily mean that veterans or the families of active-duty personnel will benefit from your donation.
- Donate to charities with a track record and a history. Charities that spring up overnight may disappear just as quickly.
- If you have any doubt about whether you have made a pledge or a contribution, check your records. If you do not remember making the donation or pledge, resist the pressure to give.
- Check out an organization before donating. Some phony charities use names, seals and logos that look or sound like those of respected, legitimate organizations.
- Call the office that regulates charitable organizations in your state to see whether the charity or fundraising organization is required to register in your state. In Alaska, the information is available at www.law.alaska.gov/consumer.
- Do not send or give cash donations. For security and tax record purposes, it is best to pay by check made payable to the charity.
- Be wary of promises of guaranteed sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. You never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.
Some of the sites where consumers can check out a charity include:
- www.law.alaska.gov/consumer - for Alaska's charity registry
- www.guidestar.org - Guidestar
- www.bbb.org/us/charity/ - Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance
- www.charitynavigator.org - CharityNavigator
- www.charitywatch.org - American Institute of Philanthropy
- www.ftc.gov/charityfraud - Federal Trade Commission
For further information, contact: Davyn Williams, Assistant Attorney General, (907) 269-5200.
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