American Disabled Veterans Foundation. Healing Heroes Network. Veterans Fighting Breast Cancer. Military Families of America.
They sound like just the sorts of organizations that generous Americans would rush to support to repay those who have served the country and now need our help.
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“Sound like” is the operative phrase here. These are all sham charities that federal and state watchdogs have sued in recent years for misleading donors, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It’s a particularly shameful subset of charity fraud: scams that exploit Americans’ gratitude for military members’ service and sacrifice.
Bogus military charities use the same outreach techniques as trusted nonprofits — direct mail, email, phone calls, texts — and often adopt similar names. They throw around words like “warriors,” “heroes” and “disabled” and fill their communications with heartrending appeals like this:
“Statistics tell us that as many as 1/3 of all homeless people in the U.S. are American veterans who served their country faithfully. With your assistance we offer these American veterans the assistance they so desperately need.”
The group behind that pitch, American Veterans Foundation, raised nearly $6.5 million from donors who were told their contributions provided care packages and other aid for deployed troops and homeless veterans. Instead, the organization shoveled 92 percent of the money it raised into telemarketing and administrative costs before the FTC shut it down in 2019.
Sham veterans charities often target older people, according to the FTC. In some cases, they are actually scam PACS, political action committees that pass themselves off to prospective donors as charities supporting veterans and other causes.
These shady operators don’t just steal or misspend your money. They divert millions of dollars that might otherwise flow to the many honorable organizations providing housing, job training, mental health care and other vital services to former military members and their families.
A little research can go a long way in weeding out phony fundraising appeals. Don’t let scammers curb your generosity toward those who serve, but take steps to ensure your donated dollars truly support them.
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