State Attorney General Richard Cordray announced in May that Ohio has joined with the Federal Trade Commission and 47 other states in a crackdown being referred to as “Operation False Charity.” The nationwide effort will attempt to reign in fundraisers and individuals who are soliciting donations for law enforcement or veterans who never receive the donations. The effort stemmed from a settlement of the case involving Community Support Inc., the Wisconsin fundraising company alleged to have used illegal tactics to get donations from consumers in Ohio and 31 other states. Community Support Inc. has agreed to stop all illegal and objectionable tactics and pay a $200,000 fine, which will be divided amongst the states involved. The Company is set to file a consent judgment with the state in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, and it has agreed to pay $10,000 for any future violations. According to the Federal Trade Commission, investigators nationwide are set to announce 72 additional law-enforcement actions against fundraising companies, nonprofits or purported nonprofits and individuals in concert with the crackdown.
The Wisconsin fundraising firm was alleged to have solicited donations on the false representation that the funds would go to help veterans or safety forces. Investigation by officials from Ohio and the other states found company employees made numerous misrepresentations. Among the allegations are that phone solicitors falsely claimed or implied that they were police or military officials or that the person being called had pledged before. They also are alleged to have failed to make certain disclosures required in various states.
Cordray’s office offered the following methods to detect fraudulent solicitors:
- Call the attorney general’s office to see whether the charity or fundraising organization is properly registered.
- Ask questions about the charity’s specific programs and services and where the charity is located.
- Do not send or give cash donations. For security and tax record purposes, it’s best to pay by check made payable to the charity rather than to an individual.
- Avoid solicitors who want to send a courier to your home to pick up your donation.
- Recognize that the words “veterans” or “military families” in an organization’s name do not necessarily mean that veterans or the families of active duty personnel will benefit from your donation.
- Donate to charities with a track record and a history, and beware of charities that spring up overnight as they might disappear just as quickly.
- If you have any doubt about whether you have made a pledge or a contribution, check your records. If you do not remember making the donation or pledge, resist the pressure to give. Check out an organization before donating. Some phony charities use names, seals and logos that look or sound like those of respected, legitimate organizations.
- Those with concerns about a charitable solicitation should contact the attorney general’s office Help Center at 800-282-0515 or visit www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov.
More information about the nationwide crackdown, coordinated by the Federal Trade Commission, is available at http://www.ftc.gov/ opa/2009/05/charityfraud.shtm.