Patriotic Americans have a soft spot for veterans, and many of us willingly donate to charitable organizations that provide needed services for veterans. Unfortunately, however, some of these groups are actually scamming the public in the name of veterans and keeping most of the money for themselves.
The Federal Trade Commission and state regulators Thursday announced a crackdown on these scammers called “Operation Donate with Honor.” The FTC released a list of 102 actions against illegal fundraising activities, and some of those so-called charities have taken money from West Virginians.
One of the worst offenders was an organization called Help the Vets. The FTC says it collected approximately $20 million nationwide between 2014 and 2017, but very little of the money was used for the promised grants, medical care, suicide prevention and other programs.
According to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, Help the Vets collected $19,886 from West Virginians, but did not spend a single dime here for veterans programs.
“The evidence shows… (the group) in reality spent more than 95 percent paying its founder, fundraisers and expenses,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons.
The Secretary of State’s Office cross-referenced the FTC bad actors list with a database of charitable groups registered in West Virginia and found eight more questionable veterans organizations. Here’s information on a few of them:
–American Veterans Foundation. The FTC said this California-based group filed misleading tax information. It spent all but eight percent of the money it collected on administration and fundraising.
–Foundation for American Veterans, Inc. The Secretary of State’s website shows it collected $164,000 in West Virginia, but returned only $20,000 to the state.
–Healing American Heroes. This Texas-based charity claims to support injured veterans and their families. It collected $4,040 from West Virginians, but returned nothing here.
–Healing Heroes Network. It collected nearly $6,000 in West Virginia, but returned no services to the state. Three out of every four dollars collected nationally by this organization went to administration and fundraising, according to the Secretary of State’s website.
The FTC and its state partners, including West Virginia, have kicked off a campaign to help Americans separate the legitimate veterans’ organizations from the scammers. According to the FTC, “Donors and business owners can find information to help them donate wisely and make their donations count at FTC.gov/Charity.
In addition, all charities registered to collect in West Virginia are listed on the Secretary of State’s website. The website also includes information on how much of the collected money is actually returned to the state and how much the charity spends on administration, fundraising and the amount that actually goes toward the programs.
Millions of Americans want to support our veterans through charitable organizations. Unfortunately, donors have to be vigilant about where their money goes because of the scofflaws who take advantage of that good will.