FTC Crackdown on Fake Veterans’ Charities Overdue

The Veteran’s Administration last week hailed a Federal Trade Commission effort in cooperation with attorneys general of all 50 states and US territories to shut down scumbags fleecing US citizens with charities they say help veterans, but in reality, only benefit the crook.

“Not only do fraudulent charities steal money from patriotic Americans, they also discourage contributors from donating to real Veterans’ charities,” said Peter O’Rourke, VA’s acting secretary. “The FTC’s Operation Donate With Honor campaign will help educate citizens on how to identify organizations that misrepresent themselves as legitimate Veterans’ charities, and those who, by contrast, truly help our nation’s heroes. I commend the FTC and its state partners for taking strong action on this important issue.”

We’ve all laughed at the Nigerian prince pigeon drop emails and have slammed the phone down on robo calls we consider phony. Unfortunately, too many people fall for these scams.

Along with the information component of “Donate With Honor,” the FTC announced several prosecutions.

Neil G. “Paul” Paulson, Sr. and Help the Vets, Inc., (HTV) will be banned from soliciting charitable contributions under settlements with the FTC and the states of Florida, California, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio and Oregon, for falsely promising donors their contributions would help wounded and disabled veterans.

The FTC charged Travis Deloy Peterson with using fake veterans’ charities and illegal robocalls to get people to donate cars, boats and other things of value, which he then sold for his own benefit. The scheme used various names, including Veterans of America, Vehicles for Veterans LLC, Saving Our Soldiers, Donate Your Car, Donate That Car LLC, Act of Valor, and Medal of Honor. Peterson allegedly made millions of robocalls asking people to donate automobiles, watercraft, real estate, and timeshares, falsely claiming that donations would go to veterans’ charities and were tax deductible.

In fact, none of the names used in the robocalls is a real charity with tax exempt status. Peterson is charged with violating the FTC Act and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule.

“Americans are grateful for the sacrifices made by those who serve in the U.S. armed forces,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “Sadly, some con artists prey on that gratitude, using lies and deception to line their own pockets. In the process, they harm not only well-meaning donors, but also the many legitimate charities that actually do great work on behalf of veterans and servicemembers.”

Unfortunately, veterans are not the only ones used by these crooks to wring sympathy dollars from Americans. Emergency responders, especially police and highway patrol, are often part of the fake charity spiel. In many, if not most, cases very little or none of the donation will actually benefit officers.

The FTC does offer suggestions on how to protect your wallet.

Donors and business owners can find information to help them donate wisely and make their donations count at FTC.gov/Charity. New and updated guidance includes:

For donors:

Giving to Charities that Help Veterans

Giving to Organizations that Help Servicemembers and Their Families

Donating through an online giving portal

For businesses:

Tips for Retailers: How to Review Charity Requests

Business Guidance: Online Charitable Giving Portals

You are always safer when you give to local folks you know and to organizations you know and not some outfit that sounds almost right. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Disabled American Veterans are three outfits I know and trust.

I’m glad to see the FTC make this effort, even if it is overdue.

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