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Remembering Our Veterans - Tips for Donors

CONSUMER ALERT

 BILL SCHUETTE
ATTORNEY GENERAL


The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern.
 Consumer Alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General.


Remembering Our Veterans - Tips for Donors
 

Michigan citizens routinely show their support for our nation’s veterans by generously donating to veterans’ charities. Sadly, there are some who exploit this generosity by using inefficient fundraising tactics that result in pennies on the dollar for your intended charity. Others are even more brazen, creating outright shams that simply include the term “military” or “veteran” in their solicitation requests, but in fact do nothing to benefit veterans and are mere devices for private gain. For a recent example here in Michigan, please see this press release

The words "Veteran" or "Veterans" appear in the corporate or assumed names of approximately 50 different charities registered with the Attorney General's office to solicit donations in Michigan. The names of these organizations can be confusingly similar, for example:

  • American Veterans Foundation
  • Disabled American Veterans 
  • Disabled American Vets Charitable Service Trust 
  • Disabled Veterans National Foundation 
  • Disabled Veterans National Foundation 
  • Disabled Veterans Services 
  • Help Hospitalized Veterans
  • Help the Vets
  • Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America
  • Michigan Veterans Foundation
  • Paralyzed Veterans of America 
  • Paralyzed Veterans of America Spinal Cord Injury Education 
  • Paralyzed Veterans of America Spinal Cord Injury Education and Training Foundation

In other words, just because an organization uses the word “veteran” does not mean that you should support it or that it’s the same organization you have supported in the past. Thus, before donating, you should educate yourself.

Research an Organization Before Donating 

There are some steps you can take.  In the case of veterans' organizations, you may wish to contact a local veterans' group to see which charities have actually provided services to their members.

Investigate.  Any reputable organization that solicits you in person or by phone will allow you time to consider before you contribute. Don't be pressured into donating!  And be suspicious of organizations that insist you've made a previous pledge or donation—especially if you don't remember doing so. 

Donors can also search the Attorney General's database of registered charities at www.mi.gov/charitysearch. This website will tell you where the organization is located, how long it has been established, and how much of past donations have been used for fundraising, administrative, and managerial expenses instead of charitable program services.  Some veterans' organizations will not appear on this website because they are exempt from registering with the Attorney General under Michigan law.  If you have a question regarding an organization not listed in the Attorney General’s database, you may contact the Attorney General's Charitable Trust Section by phone (517-373-1152) or e-mail (ct_email@michigan.gov).  You can also search for organizations at independent websites such as National Center for Charitable Statistics and GuideStar.

Below are some tips for donating to any charity.

BEWARE of Bogus Charities - Warning Signs of Fraud 

Bogus bills - You receive phony invoices for pledges you’ve never made.

E
vasive, vague or unresponsive answers - Telemarketers that don’t answer your questions.

Words in a charity's name - Scammers may use a name very similar to that of a well-known charity. 

A
damant telemarketers - Aggressive telemarketers may pressure you to make an immediate donation.

R
efusal to send information A charity or telemarketer that won’t send you written material regarding the charity’s activities is not worth supporting.

E
motional appeals - Don’t be guilted into an immediate donation.

Don't Just Hand Over the Money - Tips for Making the Actual Donation

  • Write your donation check to the organization - never to an individual; and write out the name - don’t use initials.

  • Ask for a receipt showing how much you donated, the date, its intended use, and its status as tax deductible.

  • To avoid identity theft and fraud, use caution before giving credit card numbers over the phone or online.  If you are concerned, ask the organization how it will use and safeguard your information.   For more information, see the Attorney General's Consumer Alert on identity theft
     
  • When donating online, check to see that you'll be using a secure web page for financial transactions - one starting with an "httpS://" (not "http://").   Even secure sites can be "spoofed" by scammers - for more information, see the Attorney General's Consumer Alert on "phishing."

For more advice and tips for donors, visit the Attorney General's Charities home page at www.mi.gov/agcharity