Beshear, FTC, States Announce More Than 100 Actions Against Scammers Falsely Claiming to Help Veterans, Service members

Andy Beshear

oday, Attorney General Andy Beshear announced Kentucky was part of a national law enforcement sweep that resulted in more than 100 actions against scammers who claimed to be collecting charitable donations for veterans and servicemembers.

Beshear’s office, the Federal Trade Commission and state law enforcement officials and charity regulators worked together over the past year to halt or shutdown fraudulent veteran-specific charitable campaigns and charities.

The sweep targeted sham charities, fundraisers and individuals. Actions against the defendants range from violations of the FTC’s Telemarking Sales Rules to state consumer protection law violations.

Beshear said stopping con artists who take advantage of veterans in order to lure in donors was the goal of the operation and that moving forward the new educational initiative, “Operation Donate with Honor” aims to help ensure charitable donations are sent to legitimate veteran charities.

“Those who exploit our veterans and their sacrifices to our country are among the lowest of the low,” said Beshear. “It was an honor to work with law enforcement agencies across the country to hold accountable those who deceive our hardworking families and steal from legitimate and worthy veteran causes.”

Beshear announced Kentucky’s enforcement action in November when his office assisted in shuttering the doors of VietNow National Headquarters Inc., which used the name VeteransNow, a charity that misled thousands of donors by claiming contributions supported local veterans.

The settlement between 24 states and VietNow, dissolved the Illinois-based nonprofit corporation and resolved thousands of deceptive solicitation violations. The settlement requires the charity’s directors and officers cooperate in investigations into their professional fundraisers, and ensures any remaining funds from VietNow’s closing will go to two national and well-respected veterans’ charities – Fisher House Foundation and Operation Homefront.

An example of the organization’s conduct is reflected in a recent financial statement, where VietNow reported raising nearly $2 million nationwide with less than 5 percent of funds going to charitable programs.

Beshear said the educational component, Operation Donate with Honor, developed by FTC and the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO), helps potential donors learn how to spot fraudulent and deceptive solicitations.

Tips provided on the Operation Donate with Honor website encourage donors to ask solicitors questions, like:

·         The charity’s name, website and physical location.

·         How much of any donation will go to the charitable program.

·         If they are properly registered to solicit donations.

Beshear said before making a donation, Kentuckians should ask solicitors questions and verify the answers on trusted websites like CharityNavigator.org.

Participation in the national sweep is just the latest effort by Beshear and his office to help protect Kentucky families and veterans from scams.

In January, Beshear teamed-up with AARP Kentucky to launch Mission Veterans Protected (MVP). The MVP program is the state’s first scam initiative that specifically focuses on helping Kentucky veterans, active-duty service members, reservists and military families combat the findings in a recent AARP study that determined veterans are twice as likely to fall victim to con artists compared to nonveterans.

The MVP program website provides critical information on how to identify the 10 most common veteran-specific scams, including charitable donation, military discounts and soldier impersonation scams. The site also offers tips on how to avoid falling victim to scammers; who to call for help; a list of upcoming community events and a printable awareness poster.

Kentuckians can sign up to receive Scam Alerts from Beshear’s office when new and trending scams are reported in the state by texting the words KYOAG Scam to GOV-311 (468-311) or online at ag.ky.gov/scams and select text message or email alert.

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