The Department of Justice recently announced the indictment of four people on charges of using two Indiana sham charities to trick donors into believing they were giving to a legitimate veterans organization.
According to an article in Consumer Reports, the four were accused of creating the Wounded Warrior Fund and the Wounded Warrior Foundation and misleading some people into thinking they were donating to a legitimate national charity, the Wounded Warrior Project, a Florida-based organization.
Instead of putting the money toward clothing, school supplies, and food baskets, the alleged fraudsters were accused of using donations worth more than $125,000 for personal gain and spending some of the proceeds at tobacco and liquor stores, medical providers, and even a casino.
Charity watchdogs and Justice Department officials say the case shows how important it is for donors to pay close attention when making charitable contributions. While many groups have similar names because they address like causes, such as cancer research, others adopt names of respected groups in hopes of diverting donations from worthy charities.
Before making a donation, take these steps to ensure your funds will be used as you expect:
Check the name with charity watchdogs. The three big ones are the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, CharityWatch, and Charity Navigator.
Use caution when searching online. Be careful if you’re using a web search to find a specific group by name or one devoted to a cause you want to support.
Avoid giving to telemarketers. Don’t feel pressured to give if a group solicits you by phone, even if a caller claims to be a veteran, police officer, firefighter, or anyone else you want to support. The Justice Department alleged that James Linville, whom the Justice Department described as the leader of the alleged conspiracy, raised money for the two sham veterans groups by using an official sounding names. Tell the caller you want to research the group first. If you decide to donate, you can then do so directly on the group’s website, as long as you’re sure it’s the right one.