BBB Scam of the WeeK: FTC alert for business and consumers

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MONROE, La (KNOE) - Many Americans put their money where their heart is and contribute to organizations that benefit members of the military – or police officers, first responders, or others who serve. Their generous intent shouldn't be undermined by sham charities. The FTC and the Attorneys General of Missouri and Florida just announced cases against two outfits that pocketed the proceeds meant to go toward veterans and police officers injured in the line of duty.".

Courtesy: MGN Online

This report is taken directly from the FTC Alert on these two organizations:
Missouri-based Disabled Police and Sheriffs Foundation-DPSF- told donors that contributions would go toward "assist officers who have been injured, disabled, or paralyzed." In another solicitation, DPSF claimed, "We also provide . . . relief to families of officers killed in the line of duty. . . ." Appeals like that generated $9.9 million in contributions.

Based in Sarasota, American Veterans Foundation claimed to send "We Care" packages with blankets and snacks to deployed military personnel. They also told donors that contributions would provide "immediate support" to homeless veterans "in desperate need of assistance in the form of food, shelter, clothing, medical supplies and any other reasonable request." Donors responded by contributing more than $6.5 million.

For starters, neither operation could be termed a "foundation." According to the Missouri AG and the FTC, the overwhelming majority of donations to DPSF went to paying DPSF Executive Director David Kenik and the professional fundraisers he hired. The complaint alleges that from 2013 through 2016, for every donor dollar DPSF spent, about 94 cents went toward fundraising, management, and general expenses, with a little more than a nickel going to charitable program service expenses.

Despite taking in over $3.5 million from 2014 to 2016, AVF sent only 306 "We Care" packages during that period at a total coast of just $47,246. The Florida AG and the FTC allege that contributions to AVF jumped substantially from 2015 to 2016, and yet AVF sent packages to only 69 service members in 2015 and 19 the following year. As for "immediate support" for homeless veterans, AVF provided assistance to only a handful of them. Even in its "best" year, just a small fraction of donations went to helping homeless veterans in any way. The vast majority of every donation went to for-profit fundraisers, to compensation for AVF President Monville and his son, and to administrative costs.
The settlements in both cases ban the defendants for life from soliciting charitable contributions. The proposed order against the DPSF defendants imposes a monetary judgment of $9.9 million, all but $100,000 of which is suspended based on their inability to pay. The proposed judgment against the AVF defendants includes a financial remedy of $6.5 million, all but $105,000 of which is suspended due to their financial condition. In both cases, the money paid will go to one or more legitimate charities that actually help police officers and veterans, as recommended by the Missouri and Florida AGs and approved by the courts.

See what third-party rating sites have to say about the charity.

• Read reports on sites that specialize in checking out charities.
• Pay special attention to how much goes for the specific programs you want to support vs. how much goes for fundraising.
• You can get this information at the BBB Wise Giving Alliance website or by phone.
• Visit ftc.gov/charities for tips on supporting the causes you care about and helping to ensure your donations get where they'll do good.
• Don't tarnish your company's good name by inadvertently associating it with a scam. Your business is often approached to make a donation or to allow fundraising on your premises. Of course, you want to support worthwhile causes in your community, but charity should never be an "impulse purchase." Read Tips for Retailers: How to Review Charity Requests for a simple form you can use to find out more about the charities who approach your business for help.