Secretary of State Kim Wyman has partnered with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 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 citizens spot and avoid fundraising solicitations that falsely claim their donations will help veterans and service members.
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. 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.
“Washingtonians deserve to know that their good-faith donations to charitable causes are going to benefit the people those charities claim to be helping,” Wyman said in a press release. “In almost every instance, that’s what happens. But vigilance is important, because there are some out there who will try to take advantage of the patriotic gratitude that those who’ve served our country deserve.”
The new campaign is being released in conjunction with announcements of new and recent law enforcement actions by the FTC and many states.
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 new videos that highlight tips on how to research charities and give wisely to veterans organizations: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9oXZcOwq8vmNuhrxTK-LCf_hXqiaxqM9
Veterans fundraising fraud targets potential donors online, via telemarketing, direct mail, door-to-door contacts, and at retail stores. These schemes falsely 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 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.
“Thousands of charities in Washington and across America do honorable work helping veterans and military members every day,” Wyman said in a press release. “It’s crucial that we recognize and support their efforts. Don’t rely on a sympathetic-sounding name to make a donation.”
When donating to charity, among other things, Wyman advises these additional 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;
· Check the charity’s Washington registration with the Secretary of State’s Corporations and Charities Division;
· Search the charity’s name online with the word “scam” or “complaint” to 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.
Before giving to a charity, Wyman recommends becoming educated about wise giving by visiting the Corporations and Charities website, https://www.sos.wa.gov/charities/operation-donate-with-honor.aspx. Donors and business owners can also find information to help them donate wisely and make their donations count at FTC.gov/Charity.
Consumers with questions or complaints may file a report with the state Attorney General’s Office, or contact the FTC’s Consumer Response Center at 877-382-4357.