Remembering Our Veterans - Some Timely Tips for Donors
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 -
Some Timely Tips for Donors
This Memorial Day, Michigan citizens will remember the many men and women who have served our country. This is also a time you may want to donate to one of the many charities dedicated to helping current and past members of our armed forces.
But consumers should be cautious in responding to requests for donations from unfamiliar military, veterans, or patriotic organizations, whether the solicitations come by mail, over the telephone, from door-to-door solicitors, or through social networking sites or e-mail. As the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has warned, while many organizations perform valuable services for military families, many solicitations come from organizations with such high fundraising costs that only pennies out of each dollar go toward supporting veterans, military families or other charitable purposes. For more information, see the FTC's "Supporting the Troops: When Charities Solicit Donations on Behalf of Vets and Military Families" publication (www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt157.pdf).
The words "Veteran" or "Veterans" appear in the corporate or assumed names of approximately 40 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:
* Disabled American Veterans
* Disabled American Veterans National Service Foundation
* Disabled American Vets Charitable Service Trust
* Disabled Veterans of America Association
* Disabled Veterans Associations
* Disabled Veterans Life Memorial Foundation
* Disabled Veterans National Foundation
* Disabled Veterans Services
* Michigan Paralyzed American Veterans
* Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America
* Paralyzed Veterans of America
* Paralyzed Veterans of America Spinal Cord Injury Education
* Paralyzed Veterans of America Spinal Cord Research Foundation
Confused? These are just some of the organizations containing the word "veteran." There are many other charities supporting past and present military personnel which don't include the word "veteran." With many similar-sounding organizations that appeal to donors through attractive mailings, persuasive telephone appeals, and sharp-looking websites, how will you know which organizations will maximize the use of your donation for its intended charitable purpose?
CHECK OUT 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.
Do some investigation. Any reputable organization that solicits you in person or on the telephone will allow you time to do your homework and decide whether to contribute. Don't be pressured into donating! And be suspicious of organizations that insist you've made a previous pledge or donation if you don't remember doing so.
Potential donors with questions about an organization can search on the Attorney General's registered charities database at www.michigan.gov/agcharitysearch. 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. However, the Attorney General's Charitable Trust Section can direct you to alternate websites or provide information by phone (517-373-1152) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) on organizations not found in the Attorney General Charity Search database. Below are some tips for donating to any charity.
BEWARE OF BOGUS CHARITIES - WARNING SIGNS FOR FRAUDULENT GROUPS
Bogus bills - Phony invoices are sent to you even though you never pledged money to the organization.
Evasive, vague or unresponsive answers-A telemarketer refuses to give you answers to specific questions about the charity and how it uses its money.
Words in a charity's name-A "look alike" charity uses a name very similar to that of a well-known organization.
Adamant telemarketers-Allow you no time to consider your pledge and insist on collecting your donation immediately.
Refusal to send information-A telemarketer won't send written material about the charity for you to review before you give, often using the excuse of mailing costs.
Emotional appeals-Telemarketers or mail solicitors who use high-pressure tactics or make you feel guilty about not contributing.
DON'T JUST HAND OVER THE MONEY - TIPS FOR MAKING THE ACTUAL DONATION
- Make your contribution by check payable to the organization, never to an individual, and write out the name. Do not use initials.
- Ask for and keep receipts from the organization indicating how much you donated, the date, and its intended use.
- 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 at http://www.michigan.gov/ag/0,4534,7-164-34739_20942-230557--,00.html
- 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" at http://www.michigan.gov/ag/0,1607,7-164-34739_20942-151331--,00.html
For more advice and tips for donors, visit the Attorney General's Charities home page at www.michigan.gov/agcharities and click on "Charitable Giving for Donors."