New Campaign Targets Fraudulent Veteran Charities
The State of Hawai‘i Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) and Attorney General Russell Suzuki have announced the state will join “Operation Donate with Honor,” a nationwide donor education campaign to help combat fraudulent charities that falsely claim to help veterans and U.S. 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.
Though many charities provide assistance to U.S. armed forces through voluntary contributions, some attract donors fraudulently and harm both donors and legitimate charities in the process.
“People need to be careful when donating to charities and choose the ones with a proven track record of helping those that they claim to serve,” said Stephen Levins, executive director of the Office of Consumer Protection. “One way of doing this is to avoid giving to fake charities that use names that sound a lot like the names of the legitimate ones. This is a reason that it’s important to do some research before giving.”
Operation Donate with Honor pairs enforcement actions with an education campaign to help consumers recognize and differentiate fraudulent charities from legitimate ones. The campaign This includes a video providing tips on how to research on charities on giving wisely.
According to a joint release by the DCCA and Attorney General, fraudulent veteran fundraising schemes target potential donors online, via telemarketing, direct mail, door-to-door contacts, and at retail stores. They promise 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 of these schemes solicit nationwide.
When donating to charity, the OCP advises the following precautions:
- 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;
- Search the charity’s name online with the word “scam” or “complaint.” See what other people say about it;
- Check out the charity’s ratings at the Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Watch, or Charity Navigator;
- Never pay with cash, a gift card, or by wiring money; and
- Consider paying by credit card, which is the safest option for security and tax purposes.
According to Attorney General Suzuki, potential donors should also check that the charity is registered with the Department of the Attorney General by visiting https://ag.ehawaii.gov/charity/.
“Any organization that asks the public for charitable contributions in Hawaii must be registered with our office prior to asking for any donations,” Suzuki said.
Donors and business owners can also find information about charities and ensure their contributions make a difference by visiting: FTC.gov/Charity.