HELENA – A new effort launched by the federal government and aided by state officials is cracking down on scams that target those wishing to help veterans and active service members.
Americans like to be patriotic and celebrate those who fight for our country. Sometimes it’s with memorials or parades, or sometimes we donate money.
But with that last option, people have to be careful as not every organization is honest about where that money goes.
The Federal Trade Commission and state governments recently launched Operation Donate with Honor in an effort to combat veteran charity scams. It’s a program that aims to do two things.
"To go after charities that are shams in terms of the way that they present themselves or they take in the donations and the way they spend them and it’s also a major education and outreach campaign," said Anastasia Burton with the Montana Department of Justice.
These charity scams usually promise to provide needed help and services to veterans like employment and mental health counseling or care packages.
What’s worse, the fake charities are tricky to spot because they’re everywhere – online, or over the phone, in the mail, door-to-door, even in retail stores. They even have convincing names, like Healing Heroes Network or American Disabled Veterans Foundation.
"There’s really no one particular area that consumers need to watch out for, it’s more a matter of being on alert all the time," Burton said.
State officials recommend checking online to verify a charity is real. Also, donate local and ask friends and family where they have given their money in the past.
If the charity has a brick and mortar location, that’s usually a good sign. Also, don’t ever wire money, pay with cash, or use a prepaid card instead, pay with a credit card or check.
Unfortunately, the fake charities distract from the real charities doing good work.
"It also hurts legitimate charities when money is diverted to scam organizations so you have to be very careful again and do your homework," Burton advised.
The Montana Department of Justice recommends using websites like charitynavigator.org where you can search individual charities and their ratings.