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Monday, November 10, 2014

BUFFALO — This Veterans Day, some charities are raising money to support members of the Armed Forces and their families. While many are worthy of support, Better Business Bureau serving Upstate New York warn not all of these "charities" are the real deal. BBB Military Line and BBB Wise Giving Alliance remind everyone to do their research first to make sure your contributions go to actual causes, and not into scammers' pockets.

“People want to support our veterans and con artists know that,” said Warren Clark, President of BBB serving Upstate New York. “In light of suspicious solicitation this time of year and through the giving season, we advise donors to do their research before making giving decisions using BBB Charity Reviews and other verification steps before sharing hard earned money or personal financial information.”

How veteran scams work:

You receive a solicitation from a charity that claims it is collecting donations to help veterans. It may take the form of a phone call, a postcard in the mail, an email message, a social media post or even a person going door-to-door.

But just because the solicitation claims that it is collecting money for veterans' causes, it doesn't mean the funds are really going there. Charity fraud varies from outright scams (such as this elaborate con that landed its perpetrator a 28-year prison sentence last year) to a misrepresentation of how much of a donation actually goes to help veterans.

BBB serving Upstate New York investigation of the Hero House 2014 Giveaway led to the raffle being shut down, after it was revealed it was not following state laws.

There are several ways consumers can protect themselves from veterans’ charity scams:

  • Watch out for name confusion. Many veterans’ charities include virtually the same words in different order or slightly different form.
  • Program descriptions. Look for a clear description of the organization's programs in its appeals and website. If it says it is helping veterans, does it explain how (financial assistance, shelter, counseling), and where it is doing so?
  • Telemarketing cautions. Telemarketing can be a costly method of fund raising unless carefully managed. If called, do not hesitate to ask for written information on the charity's programs and finances.
  • On-the-spot donation decisions. Be wary of excessive pressure in fund raising. Don't be pressured to make an immediate on-the-spot donation. Charities should welcome your gift whenever you want to send it.
  • Donating used clothing and other goods. Find out how the charity benefits from the collection and resale of used clothing and other in-kind gifts. Sometimes the charity receives only a small portion of the resale price of the item or may have a contractual arrangement to get a flat fee for every household pick-up, no matter what the contents.
  • Before giving, check with outside sources. Visit to access reports that summarize rigorous evaluations in relation to 20 holistic BBB Charity Standards that address governance, results reporting, finances and appeal accuracy. Also, you can find a list of Veteran Service Organizations (VSO) at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website and information about Military Service Organizations (MSO) at the U.S. Military Community Information and Outreach website.

Check out BBB Wise Giving Alliance's complete list of tips here.

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