Tennessee officials and FTC to crack down on veteran charity scams

Tennessee officials join the Federal Trade Commission and regulators across the country in a mission to end veteran charity scams.

The FTC has joined with the Tennessee Secretary of State, as well as the state attorney general and law enforcement in each state to file complaints against fraudulent charities that have promised donations that help veterans and military.

The “Operation Donate with Honor” initiative, announced Thursday, includes an education campaign to help potential donors spot and avoid fake fundraising solicitations so they can ensure their money is used positive way – and not in the pockets of crooks.

“Tennessees are some of the most giving people in the country,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said in a statement. women who serve our country.

Hargett said he hopes Tennesseans will continue to donate their money to benefit veterans, but will do their research.

“Protecting the people of Tennessee from individuals or organizations who profit from the generosity of individuals who genuinely want to help those who have served our country with honor, is something my office does not take lightly,” the prosecutor said. Tennessee General Herbert H. Slatery III in a statement. declaration.

The main culprits discovered

Veterans of America and its founder, Travis Deloy Peterson, have been accused of illegally making millions of robocalls to trick people into donating items such as cars and boats, claiming the donations would go to charities for veterans and would be tax deductible.

The items, totaling approximately $454,000, were instead sold for personal use, according to the FTC.

Another group, Help the Vets, received $20 million in donations for injured and disabled veterans between 2014 and 2017. VietNow, an Illinois charity group, raised about $2 million nationwide through telemarketers who overstated their charitable activities.

Officials found the group donated just 0.2% of its donations to help veterans. Illinois and 23 other states have reached an agreement with VietNow to dissolve and distribute its assets to Fisher House Foundation and Operation Homefront.

Other charities discovered for various fraudulent violations include: Healing American Heroes, Healing Heroes Network, Operation Troop Aid and Veterans Relief Association.

FTC officials warned Thursday that many fake charities operate under various pseudonyms.

Before donating

Peter O’Rourke, acting secretary of the US Department of Veterans Affairs, said in a statement Thursday that bogus organizations do more harm than steal.

“Not only do fraudulent charities steal money from patriotic Americans, they also discourage contributors from donating to genuine veterans charities,” O’Rourke said in a statement.

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Questions the FTC recommends you ask charities before donating:

  • How is my money used?
  • Who are you exactly?
  • Where are you Located?
  • How much of my money goes directly to the program?

When making payments, the FTC recommends keeping the following in mind:

  • Never donate in cash or by bank transfer. It is safer to pay by credit card or check.
  • Keep track of all donations and carefully review your statements to ensure you are charged the correct amount.
  • Pay attention to recurring donations in your account.
  • Look before you click during checkout. Know exactly who is receiving your donation.

If you’ve been scammed or donated to a charity in the past and aren’t sure it’s legit, report the possible scam to FTC.gov/complaint. It also helps to report the case to your state charity regulator at nasconet.org.

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When filing your complaint, collect all information that may be useful to managers, such as the name of the organization, the phone numbers and emails by which you were contacted, and what the fundraiser has said when she asked you to donate.

Yihyun Jeong covers veterans and military affairs for USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee. Contact her at yjeong@tennessean.com or 615-881-7309. Follow her on Twitter @yihyun_jeong.

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