Baltimore, MD- On November 11, we will collectively honor those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Veterans Day is an opportunity to show our appreciation for their service, and for some this is reflected in donations to organizations that help homeless and disabled veterans, offer medical or wellness services, help with employment counseling or placement, or for any number of services that benefit veterans.
Unfortunately, some charitable donations never make it to the intended recipients. And like any other request for charitable donations, those claiming to help veterans are no exception. While there are many genuine organizations that fundraise on behalf of our nation’s veterans, the Consumer Protection Division is advising Marylanders to be on the lookout for sham fundraisers. Some phony organizations may take advantage of Veterans Day to deceive well-meaning people looking to support veterans.
In recent years, our office has taken legal action against sham fundraisers, including one based in southern Maryland that fraudulently claimed to help homeless veterans. This organization sent fundraisers to ask for donations outside grocery stores and other retail storefronts all over southern Maryland and presented forged documents to potential donors claiming the organization was registered with the Secretary of State (required for all charities soliciting in Maryland) when it was not. That organization also fabricated a story about its donations supporting a homeless shelter in Calvert County that did not exist.
Earlier this year, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General joined “Operation Donate with Honor,” a nationwide initiative to crack down on phony fundraisers that steal money from generous people. The effort also promotes consumer education in recognizing charitable solicitation fraud and identifying legitimate charities. The Consumer Protection Division offers this advice for those looking to donate to charitable organizations:
- Check whether the organization is registered with the Maryland Secretary of State’s Office (Tip: You can search the Maryland Charities Database at https://sos.maryland.gov/Charity/Pages/SearchCharity.aspx).
- Don’t be rushed. Unscrupulous callers want to get your money fast. Undoubtedly, the need will still be there after Veterans Day.
- Ask for the full name, address, and phone number of the charity.
- Ask for what purpose your contribution will be made. If your donation is solicited by an organization on behalf of another charity, ask how much actually is given to that charity.
Here are some red flags that your donation may not be going to a legitimate charity:
- The organization refuses to provide you with written material or financial information (or says they need a good-faith contribution before sharing this information with you).
- The solicitor offers to send a courier to collect your contribution.
- You receive an invoice or bill for a pledge you never made.
- The organization’s name and logo closely resemble another charity with a similar purpose.
For more information, download our tips for giving wisely at http://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/CPD%20Documents/Tips-Publications/147.pdf or watch this short, informative video produced by the Federal Trade Commission: