News & Updates

 

Wise Giving Wednesday: Fraudulent Fundraiser for Military Family Vacations

Aug 14, 2019

On July 31, 2019 the FBI announced that a former resident of South Carolina was sent to federal prison for charity fraud involving a military theme. The organization known as Marines and Mickey promised to help send military families on vacations to Walt Disney resorts and to help pay travel expenses to see family members graduate from United States Marine Corps boot camps held at Parris Island, South Carolina and San Diego, California.  As reported, almost half a million dollars was contributed between 2014 and 2016 and less than 20 percent of funds raised were actually used for the announced purposes. In addition, the Department of Justice release indicated that the president of the charity falsely represented himself as a retired career Marine Master Sergeant and Drill Instructor when in fact he spent less than five years in the Marine Corps and was given a Bad-Conduct discharge in 1998. The case was investigated by the FBI, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charleston, South Carolina.

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission, state Attorneys General and state charity regulators joined forces to help the donating public avoid misleading charity appeals and find trustworthy veterans organizations to support. The event was titled “Donate with Honor” and was held at the FTC’s headquarters in Washington, DC. The event announced over 100 enforcement actions involving veterans organization deficiencies ranging from misleading appeals to failing to register with the state government despite repeated requests by the state.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers donors the following tips to consider:

  • Mistaken Identity: Watch out for name confusion. Many veterans’ charities include virtually the same words in different order or slightly different form.
  • Check Outside Sources Before Giving: Visit Give.org to check out a charity’s trustworthiness by verifying that it meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. These standards address more than just finances; they also cover charity governance, results reporting, appeal accuracy, and donor privacy. Also, check with your state government’s charity registration agency, usually a division of either the attorney general’s office or secretary of state’s office.
  • Avoid On-the-Spot Donation Decisions: Be wary of excessive pressure in fundraising. Don’t be pressured to make an immediate on-the-spot donation.
  • Find Out What They Do: Don’t assume what the veterans organization does based on their name alone. Review the appeal carefully and see if it matches program and financial information appearing on the organization’s website.
  • Recognize Telemarketing Cautions: Telemarketing can be a costly method of fundraising unless carefully managed. If interested in a call on behalf of a veterans’ charity, always check out the organization online before donating.
  • Be Wary of Unusual Donation Transaction Options:  Watch out if a charity solicitor asks for donors to send contributions using an unusual transaction method such as wire transfer, gift cards, or pre-paid debit cards. This could be a ruse to enable questionable solicitors to get funds quickly.
  • Learn How Donated Items Will Be Used. If a veterans’ charity is soliciting for used clothing, cars, furniture and other in-kind gifts, find out how they benefit. 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.
  • Seek Out Financial Information. Verify the accuracy of financial information in veterans’ organizations appeals. Check out the charity’s report on BBB’s Give.org or review the charity’s website for its latest financial information. The BBB Standards for Charity Accountability call for a charity to spend at least 65% of its total expenses on program service activities, as opposed to fundraising and administrative costs.  

For more advice, see the cover story that appeared in our Wise Giving Guide magazine


Video of the Week

As part of our Building Trust Video Series, we are pleased to provide a video featuring Maya Ajmera, President and CEO, Society for Science and the Public (a BBB Accredited Charity) an organization that works to expand scientific literacy, STEM education, and scientific research.  The organization also publishes Science News magazine, which includes science-related journalism, editorial content and educational products.



Recent Reports

We are always working with charities to publish or update reports for donors. Visit Give.org or local BBBs to check out any charity before giving. Our recently evaluated charities include:

Finally, remember to let us know by going to www.give.org/charity-inquiry if you are  interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.

H. Art Taylor, President & CEO  
BBB Wise Giving Alliance