SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The state of Utah is warning people to be careful when donating to groups claiming to support veterans.
Officials say most groups are legitimate and do important work, but every year a few fraudsters attract donations by lying about help and support they don’t actually deliver.
Fraud schemes can come online, through telemarketing, direct mail, door-to-door contacts or at retail stores. Some promise to help homeless or disabled veterans while others say they help with housing mental health counseling, care packages or employment.
The Utah Division of Consumer Protection veterans-related charities webpage suggests that potential donors take time to research organizations that have goals and programs reflective of the donors’ interests and concerns and to make sure the money is going toward those goals.
Donors are also advised to check to see if the charity is registered with the Division of Consumer Protection and has reported its contributions and expenses. This list, along with the charity’s report of the percentage of contributions going to its charitable purpose, can be found at the division’s registered charities search. You can also contact the Department of Veteran’s Affairs at their website.
Tips on giving wisely
The Utah Division of Consumer Protection offers the following additional tips to help consumers ensure their donations go to a legitimate charity.
- Recognize that the words “veterans” or “military families” in an organization’s name does 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 can’t 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 Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 to see whether the charity or fundraising organization has to be registered in Utah.
- Do not send or give cash donations. For security and tax record purposes, it’s best to pay by check made payable to the charity.
- Ask for a receipt showing the amount of your contribution.
- 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.
- www.guidestar.org – Guidestar
- www.charitynavigator.org – Charity Navigator
- www.charitywatch.org – American Institute of Philanthropy
- FTC public education materials in English: www.ftc.gov/charityfraud
- FTC public education materials in Espanol: www.ftc.gov/donaciones
Written by The Associated Press.
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