10 Charities to Think Twice About Before Giving Money To

Charity Navigator is a website that ranks charities based on their financial transparency and accountability. Below is a list of ten charities that consistently receive the lowest rating the website has to offer, meaning they perform far below industry standards in a variety of areas.

National Veterans Services Fund: Only one quarter of the organization’s total expenses go towards the services they actually claim to provide. Two thirds of their total expenses go towards fundraising. Charity Navigator ranks them poorly specifically for their financial decisions.

Children’s Charity Fund, Inc.: Only 7% of their money goes towards their programs. Their fundraising efficiency is incredibly poor. They also lack an independent Board of Directors and many other key components to maintaining transparency.

Firefighters Charitable Foundation: This organization also only allows 7% of its expenses to be spent on programs. In addition, they do not release essential financial information to the public.

Wishing Well Foundation USA: In addition to not releasing financial information, they have no conflict of interest policy. For every $1 raised, $.82 was spent by the organization.

The Committee for Missing Children: Only 12% of the expenses are for programs for missing children. Essential financial information is not released.

Shiloh International Ministries: For every dollar earned, $.81 is spent on expenses for the company.

California Police Youth Charities: Do not release audited financials, and they have no conflict of interest policy.

United States Deputy Sheriff’s Association: The program expenses are only 5.5% of the total expenses. They have no independent board of directors.

Police Protective Fund: The program expenses are 8% of the total expenses, with the CEO getting paid 2.57% of the total expenses, which equates to over $120,000.

The Association for Firefighters & Paramedics: Only 2.4% of the total expenses go toward providing the support the association offers. There is no transparency in this organization


It’s Easy to Avoid Scam Charities

Scam charities aren’t a new thing. Fortunately, they aren’t that common. With that being said, education is still the number one way to protect against fraud. Scam charities often crop up after a major tragedy takes place, such as a mass shooting, earthquake, or hurricane. During these times, philanthropic people should conduct plenty of research to ensure that the charity they’re thinking about donating to is a legitimate organization.

However, you should always research any charity you’re thinking about supporting, even if it is a reputable group that has been around forever. You really want to make sure that your hard-earned money will go towards a mission that you support. Additionally, researching an organization can also help you identify some major red flags.

Popular “missions” for scam charities involve supporting veterans and police officers. In Kentucky, for example, police have warned people to be careful of any unsolicited calls from a charity that purports to help officers and their families. The caller seeks immediate donations through wire transfer or prepaid cards, which are difficult to trace. You should avoid these types of solicitations at all costs.

In fact, any time you receive unsolicited contact from a charity, you should be wary. While it’s possible that they’re just using aggressive tactics, there’s also a strong possibility that they’re a fraud. Get the name of the organization, and then see if they have a website where you can donate. In this day and age, there’s no excuse for not having a website, so that’s a good starting point. See what you can find out about them with a simple Web search. If they don’t have a Web presence, chances are that they’re not a real charity.

If you ever do get the impression that you’ve been approached by a scam charity, you should report them to the Federal Trade Commission immediately. The Federal Trade Commission will investigate and determine whether the charity in question is real or not.


Making It a Little Easier to Investigate Charity Fraud

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Between 2005 and 2016, the number of non-profits in America jumped from around 500,000 to over 1.6 million. Consequently, the number of fraud cases brought against nonprofit has increased as well. There have been a number of scandals in the non-profit field in 2015 and 2016 alone, and they’ve brought to light just how hard it can be to investigate such cases.

The IRS, with which all non-profits have to be registered, is finally helping to make that a little easier by making available digital, or digitized, 990 forms. In so doing, they have made these forms, which are required for non-profits, available for anyone to pursue or to mine for data, in order to find out how many non-profits work on X issue, or have claimed more than Y donations. That will, hypothetically, make it easier for investigators to determine if fraud accusations are truthful.

It’s a process that should have been completed some time ago, a lot closer to when President Obama issued an executive order to make government agencies more transparent. The IRS claimed they didn’t have the resources to do so, but the courts didn’t agree. It’s also not a perfect system. There are still a number of forms missing, from about 40% of groups that didn’t file electronically. Going forward, mandatory electronic filing might be in the works, and would certainly make life easier for investigators. But it’s also not the easiest system to use, and is better suited to broad searches that require a lot of data, than for one person to tack down one organization’s filings.

It’s definitely a step in the right direction. It also brings to light at least one simple thing that non-profits can do to help: file electronically with the IRS. Fraud is bad news for the whole field, so it’s in every non-profit’s interest to make rooting out charity fraud easier.

News Organizations The Power of Giving

Fraudulent Maryland Veterans Charity Barred from Soliciting

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The state of Maryland has barred a fraudulent charity from soliciting for donations following a number of complaints and an investigation that found the charity was not operating within the law. The Southern Maryland Veterans Association claimed to be helping homeless veterans, but was not using the money they raised for those purposes, and in fact was not even registered with the Secretary of State.

Without being registered, the group could not legally solicit for donations and was misrepresenting itself as a charity. They were a familiar sight outside of grocery stores and other locations, and had been soliciting for long enough that there couldn’t be a reasonable argument for why they were not registered with the Secretary of State.

The organization was issued a cease and desist order earlier this year, but they requested several hearings to have that order overturned, all of which failed. The Secretary of State, which regulates charities in Maryland, upheld the cease and desist and has urged residents to report further solicitations by the group.

This case is yet another example of charities, registered or otherwise, which purport to support veterans defrauding donors. Although fraud in the non-profit sector is actually pretty rare, it does come up in the news when it happens, and in the case of veterans charities, the problem seems to be snowballing.

Why veterans charities? It’s a disgrace that we even need veterans charities, that former military personal should have to rely on the kindness of others to help them out instead of the government is beyond many people. And as such, veterans are seen by many as a party well worth supporting with their charitable money. Charity fraud tends to crop up following tragedies which generate a lot of donations (like hurricanes or mass shootings) but for the average scam artist, veterans seem to be quite the cash cow.


Charity Fraudster Adam Shryock Faces Extended Sentence

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Adam Shryock’s fake charity tricked thousands of people across the country into thinking they were donating vital funds to breast cancer-related charities. IMG: via Shutterstock

The founder of a fake charity fundraiser Boobies Rock! is now serving six more months in jail. Adam Shryock was taken to jail after the Denver judge found overwhelming evidence that he had violated his 2013 order. Back in 2013, it was discovered that Shryock’s fake charity misled thousands of people across the country by making them believe that they were donating vital funds to breast cancer-related charities.

“Adam Shryock is now a repeat charity-fraud offender, which is why it is fitting that he received the maximum penalty for thumbing his nose at the court and continuing to commit charitable fraud,” Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said, of the most recent allegations against him. “Mr. Shryock victimized both the young women who believed they were raising money for charity and the charities themselves by using their names without permission.”

The first time around Shryock was ordered to stop his practices in 2013 after the Attorney General’s office had filed a lawsuit against him alleging he was committing charitable fraud. That order was now violated twice and then on Wednesday there was enough evidence to show that Shryock was the driving force behind a fundraising event that took place in fall of 2014.

In July 2013 a temporary restraining order against Shryock, Boobies Rock!  Inc., The Se7ven Group, and Say No 2 Cancer for deceiving consumers into thinking they were donating money to charity. In the latest claim, Shryock claimed to only be the wholesaler and consultant to the woman running the tour, but the judge found he was heavily involved in the tour’s day-to-day operations.

It’s deeply upsetting and almost unbelievable that a person could commit fraud for their own benefit in the name of charity. Remember to always take the extra steps of doing thorough research on any organization, or person claiming to collect for the organization before donating so that your money is finding it’s way into the right pockets.