Attorney General, Secretary of State take aim at fraudulent veterans charities

State
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Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann are partnering with the Federal Trade Commission and charity regulators across the country to crackdown on fraud.

“Operation Donate with Honor,” alerts donors to false solicitations which promise donations to veterans and service members.

The Mississippi Veterans Affairs Board and the Mississippi National Guard back the effort as well.

“Giving back to our veterans who have sacrificed so much for our freedom is a worthy cause, but, unfortunately, it has also become a common way to scam people out of money and veterans out of resources,” Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann agreed. 

“Mississippians are the most generous people in the Nation, always answering the call when it comes to our veterans and service members,” he said. “Operation Donate with Honor continues our Office’s position to ensure funds donated are received by those who need it the most.”

The FTC and the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) created the program. The association is charged with oversight of charitable organizations and charitable solicitations in the United States. The initiative pairs enforcement actions with an education campaign to help consumers recognize charitable solicitation fraud and identify legitimate charities.  This includes a social media campaign and a public service announcement video that highlights tips on how to research the legitimacy of charities so consumers can give wisely to veterans organizations:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABxiFqSktyg.

Veterans fundraising fraud schemes target potential donors online, via telemarketing, direct mail, door-to-door contacts, and at retail stores, falsely promising to help homeless and disabled veterans, to provide veterans with employment counseling, mental health counseling or other assistance, and to send care packages to deployed service members.  Many schemes solicit nationwide. 

Tips to remember when donating to a charity include:

·         Ask for the charity’s name, website, and physical location;

·         Ask how much of any donation will go to the charitable program you want to support;

·         Check the Secretary of State’s website to see whether the charity is registered in Mississippi:         http://charities.sos.ms.gov/online/portal/ch/page/charities-search/Portal.aspx;

·         Search the charity’s name online with the word “scam” or “complaint.” See what other people say about it;

·         Check out the charity’s ratings at the Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Watch, or Charity Navigator;

·         Never pay with cash, a gift card, or by wiring money; and

·         Consider paying by credit card, but never over the phone, and only after receipt of written information you can verify.

For more information about charities and charity laws in Mississippi, visit www.ago.state.ms.us or www.sos.ms.gov/charities.  More information from the FTC is accessible at www.FTC.gov/Charity.

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Charities register and provide an annual report to the Charities Division of the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office.  The Division audits charities throughout the year, issues enforcement actions against noncompliant or unregistered charities, and engages in educational campaigns to inform the public about charities laws. Complaints about charities, including registered and fraudulent charities, should be sent to the Secretary of State’s Office for investigation.

Any registered or fraudulent charities in the state that are committing criminal acts may be referred by the Secretary of State’s Office for prosecution through the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office.

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