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How to Make Sure a Veterans Charity Is Not a Scam

Use these expert tips to become an informed giver

En español | There are many legitimate charities helping veterans and military families, but it's wise to do your homework before choosing to give. 

"Most people think charities are set up to do the right thing," says Art Taylor, president and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance.  "We’re trying to get people to investigate before they give.  Be proactive, ask questions such as how much money goes to the cause and how exactly the organization helps."

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a crackdown on fraudulent veterans charities. The FTC, BBB alliance and AARP Fraud Watch Network suggest these tips to be an informed giver.

Do ...

  • Research. Search online for the charity's name and words like "scam" or "complaint."
  • Check out the group through organizations that evaluate charities such as BBB Wise Giving AllianceCharity NavigatorCharityWatch and Guidestar
  • Learn whether the charity is registered with your state charity regulator, something most states require. Go to the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) to find out.   
  • Ask for the charity's website and address.
  • Ask what the mission is and how much of your donation goes directly to help veterans and military families.
  • Ask how many service members and families the group helps.  
  • Report scams to the FTC or to your state charity regulator through  

Don't ...

  • Give in to phone call pressure to donate immediately. Check first to make sure the group is legitimate. Think before you give.
  • Give cash, wire money, or pay by gift card. It’s safer to pay by check or credit card.
  • Fall for it when you're told that by donating you’ll win a sweepstakes or prize. That is illegal.
  • Fall for the suggestion that you made a previous donation that you don't remember.  
  • Be fooled by a name. Just because a group uses the word "veterans" or "warriors," that doesn’t mean its legitimate. The group might be trying to take advantage of your patriotism.
  • Confuse a charity appeal with a bill and think you have to donate because the solicitation looks like an invoice.