Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. It’s an opportunity for us to pause and show our respect and caring for our fallen soldiers.
It’s also an opportunity for “charity” scammers to prey on that respect and caring. These con artists do double damage — they steal from you and they steal from those you want to help with your donated dollars.
No one would fall for the “Fund for the Widow of the Unknown Soldier” — would they? I can’t imagine a scam artist would use that fictitious name. Scammers are more clever.
Not every group that looks, sounds or feels like a charity is truly a charity. Scam “charities” often adopt names similar to legitimate charities, siphoning off dollars needed for good works.
“Charity” scams abound. They focus on fallen soldiers, natural or man-made disasters, diseases or any other topic likely to create a public reaction of caring and generosity.
Super-fast way to avoid falling for “charity” scams
CharityCheck101.org is a super-fast way to check a group’s identity and tax-status. Is the group recognized by the IRS? Are donations to it deductible as charitable contributions?
You can search based on the group’s name. Even faster, you can do an EIN Magic search based on its 9-digit EIN (employer identification number).
Veteran nonprofits abound
Search CharityCheck101.org for groups with the word “veteran” in their name, and you’ll find that more than 15,000 have been recognized by the IRS as nonprofits or charities.
All charities are not equal
There are big differences, even among charities recognized by the IRS. While many do strong work with the moneys entrusted to them, others lack focus or management and produce little impact.
A look at the two most prominent charity rating services illustrates the differences. We checked on May 20, 2013 and found:
- At CharityNavigator.org we searched for “veteran” in the name and found 22 charities. Of them, 3 received a “4-Star” (Exceptional) rating, 6 received a “0-Star” (Exceptionally Poor) rating, and another 7 showed as “Donor Advisory” (“serious concerns have been raised about this charity which prevents the issuance of a star rating”).
- CharityWatch (see CharityWatch.org) provided ratings of 46 charities in its Veterans & Military category. Of the 46, 9 received an “A” (Excellent) grade and 26 received an “F” (Poor) grade.
If the ratings given to these groups are representative of the veterans sector, alarms should go off! Typically about 1/3 of ratings by CharityNavigator and CharityWatch are in the “0-Star” or “F” category. But,
- For CharityWatch, 26 of 46 receive “F” ratings (57%).
- For CharityNavigator, if you remove the Donor Advisory groups from the calculations — the veterans group gets 6 “0-Star” ratings out of 15 (40%); if you treat the Donor Advisory status as a “0-Star” — the veterans group gets 13 “0-Star” ratings out of 22 (59%).
Be respectful. Care. And be careful. If you want to donate to honor or help veterans and/or their families, make sure your donated dollars will be used well.
- Avoid “charity” scams by checking the identity and tax-status of any group seeking a donation from you — before you donate.
- A super-fast way to check a group’s identity and tax-status is to get its EIN (employer identification number) and use it to do an EIN Magic search.
- Charities vary greatly. Dig before you donate. Don’t give to one without knowing more about its operations and impact.
- Honor the energy that went into creating your donated dollars by making sure they end up in the hands of a group doing strong work with the moneys entrusted to it.
Dedicated to the memory of James T. Long, who died May 13, 1967, in the service of our country. We will never forget.
What do you think? Have experiences to share?
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