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What’s worse than a bogus charity? A bogus charity with a dishonest fundraiser. That’s what we saw in a case announced today against Outreach Calling, Inc., its founder Mark Gelvan, and others.

The defendants in this FTC case are fundraisers that called millions of Americans on behalf of bogus charities. They claimed that the charities delivered care packages to Vietnam veterans in need, helped breast cancer survivors, gave grants to family members of fallen officers, and other things. But these fundraisers kept 90% or more of the donations they got. The bogus charities spent most of their share on salaries for their founders and family members, or administrative costs.

Today’s settlement bans the defendants from charitable fundraising. But when you get a call from a charity fundraiser, how do you know the caller is telling you the truth? Here are a few tips:

  • Ask the caller specific questions:
    • What is the charity’s name, phone number, or address? Write these down so you can confirm them later. Keep in mind that many charity names sound alike.
    • How much of your donation will go directly to the programs you want to support?
    • Will your donation be tax-deductible? Not every call seeking a donation is from a charity. Some calls might be from Political Action Committees or other groups where donations are not deductible. See more questions to ask here.
  • Resist the pressure to donate now. After you’ve listened to the caller, hang up the phone and think about what they said. Then, go online and do your own research:
    • Search for the organization’s name and phone number, plus the word “scam” or “complaint.” What you find might help you decide if you want to make that donation.
    • Look up the organization’s name and address. Does it show up? If it doesn’t, that could be a sign the caller was lying to you.
    • See what these rating organizations say about the charity: BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, and GuideStar.

If you get a donation request in the mail, do some research online before you donate. And if you spot a charity scam, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

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8 Comments


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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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slhsc
September 16, 2020
And watch your mail too! We have about three pounds of mail per week from fundraisers, from political, to religious, to the poor, to the veterans, etc. I have to "sift through" to find that one piece of mail that actually applies to our lives! You can opt-out of such via many websites and "refuse" the junk mail via the Post Office.
728899
September 16, 2020
Contact your state and federal government to insure the they are registered and in good standing. Every charity should be registered and filing reports
Looie
September 16, 2020
Better yet, don't answer any calls from numbers you don't recognize, and if you do, just hang up when they start their spiel.
Ron GouldDon't…
September 16, 2020
A suggestion. Make a list at beginning of the year of charities or organizations you might want to donate to.
Bob
September 16, 2020
Excellent advise!
joan
September 16, 2020
Thank you for these updates and i hope that these "people" get locked up for these awful and very disturbing so called charities !!
Publia
September 16, 2020
I have a policy that I do not give to any charity that calls me up; I insist on seeing something printed. My only exceptions are when it comes time to donate to the alumni fund at my high school or college. I do take those calls because they are students, and I think it's a good thing to encourage philanthropy at an early age.
Golden Stater
August 31, 2021
Do not respond to any solicitations. Do your due diligence, know to whom you wish to donare, and initiate the donation yourself.