FTC warns donors to watch out for veterans' charity scams

The Federal Trade Commission is urging donors to watch out for veterans' charity scams, saying they'll pull at your heartstrings, but grab your wallet.

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Take a look at these names. Would you donate to these organizations?

  • The American Disabled Veterans Foundation
  • Healing Heroes Network
  • National Vietnam Veterans Foundation

If you donated to these, you were duped. The FTC sued them for lying.

"I have family members that have been veterans, so this particular issue incenses me," said Sally Tyler, Charity Review Manager for the Better Business Bureau.  

Tyler recalls one veteran's charity scam.

"There were paper sacks they were collecting. They had information on the outside of the sack, and the sack was left at your doorstep, and they came up with a truck.  Unfortunately, the truck went someplace else. It didn’t go to veterans.  It was collected and resold," said Tyler.

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The FTC says be wary of scammers posting stolen photos of veterans on social media, calling, or sending mailers, using names that sound like real veterans charities.

"You don’t want to give money to someone who is just going to take the money and pocket it for themselves," said FTC attorney Rosario Mendez with the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

"Ask questions. Where is the money going? Who do you think is going to benefit? How much of the money you’re being paid goes for that?" suggested Tyler.

Mendez describes one organization the FTC sued.

"I think they told donors their donations would be used to send care packages to deployed military service members.  But 90% of the donations, a lot of the donations, instead, were used to pay the telemarketers," said Mendez.

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And who could forget Help the Vets, Inc.?  The FTC alleges it collected $20 million, but that 95% went to one man, his fundraisers, and expenses.  

Before you donate to any charity, look it up on Give.org, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, or GuideStar.  

"Those organizations that rate charities can help you make decisions because they have information about how the organization uses their money, how much they spend on the cause, etc.," said Mendez.


Experts warn you not to donate with cash, gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency. Use a credit card, so that you can request a refund if you learn it was scam.  

Learn more at ftc.gov/charity. You can report scams to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. 

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