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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