Oregon AG cracks down on several veterans' charities, fundraisers

Oregon AG cracks down on fradulent veterans' charitiesThe Oregon attorney general's office shut down a charity that claimed to help veterans, but instead pocketed most of the money it raised, leaving behind only "meager assets, which include little more than some t-shirts, bandanas and a weed [whacker]."

The four people who ran the charity, No Veterans Left Behind Association, settled with the attorney general's office to repay $4,800 to the Oregon Veterans home, and agreed not to do charity work anymore.

The AG's lawsuit says the charity set up booths in front of big retail stores in the state, asking for cash donations and selling veteran-related items. The lawsuit says the charity told store owners and potential donors the organization was all-volunteer and would give 75% to 80% of proceeds to veterans. Instead, it kept 80%, amounting to about $17,000.

The legal action is part of an Oregon AG's office initiative to crack down on questionable charities.

Earlier in the month, as part of that initiative, the Oregon AG settled for $180,000 from Center Stage Attractions, a professional fundraising company in Florida that operated out of Salem, the state's capitol, and a local client charity, The Veterans Fund. Together, the AG accused the companies of making false statements to potential donors and keeping raised money instead of giving it to veterans.

The AG's office also filed two lawsuits against other veterans' aid groups, the first against Veterans of Oregon & Members of the Community and its fundraiser, Associated Community Services, which raised more than $500,000 on veterans' behalf. "Little if any of the money benefited the homeless and hospitalized vets that donors were told they were helping," the AG's office said.

The second was filed against Community Support, a national fundraiser, alleging it violated the do-not-call rule and didn't tell people it was a professional fundraiser.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission offers these guidelines for avoiding charity fraud:
  • Ask for the charity's name, address and phone number and for written information about its programs.
  • Ask whether the person contacting you is a professional fundraiser, and how much of the money you donate will actually be given to the group in need.
  • Check the history of the organization with Charity Navigator, Guidestar and local resources.
Check out the FTC Charity Checklist.
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