Approaching Veterans Day—and all year round—patriotic Americans search for opportunities to give back to those who have served our country and fought for our freedoms. Sadly, scammers lurking on the internet use communication techniques similar to trusted military nonprofits to mislead prospective donors. These tactics not only steal money from hardworking Americans looking to give back to our country’s Veterans, it also pulls millions of dollars away from legitimate organizations that provide vital support and services to our Veterans and their families—such as job training, housing assistance and mental health services.
How Do Veteran Charity Scams Work?
Through targeted communications, scammers use names similar to well-known charities and flood their communications with words like “hero,” “sacrifice” and “disabled” to pull on the heartstrings of compassionate Americans. Oftentimes, these fake charities will create targeted lists by searching social media for people who support the military. Other times, these scammers will imitate existing fundraisers or charities around military observances—such as Veterans Day—when the military is top of mind. Typically, money donated to these fraudulent charities goes into the pockets of these con artists, and very little—if any—goes towards supporting Veterans.
5 Red Flags of a Veteran Charity Scam
Veteran charity scams can be difficult to spot because these scammers mimic legitimate charitable organizations. Keep an eye out for these 5 common red flags of a charity scam to make sure your contribution is actually helping provide Veterans with support:
1. Thank you for a donation you don’t remember making
Fake charities will thank you for a donation that you never made in hopes that you will give “again” without questioning the legitimacy of their organization. If you receive communication that praises you for a donation you don’t remember making, proceed with caution.
2. Refusal to provide charity information
If a charity refuses to provide basic information about the organization itself or how your donation will be used, be wary. Legitimate organizations are happy to provide you with answers to all your questions before you donate. Prior to donating to any charity, we recommend doing some research. Search the charity’s name on sites like GuideStar, Charity Navigator or the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, which provide donors with free access to data, tools, and resources to make informative giving decisions.
3. Use of high-pressure tactics
Real charities appreciate donations whenever you are ready to give, so be wary of anyone who pressures you to donate right away. They are trying to get your money before you have time to do research or question their legitimacy. If someone is using high-pressure tactics to try to get you to donate, hang up or don’t respond until you’ve had time to do some investigating. We recommend running an internet search of the charity’s name followed by the word “scam” or “complaint”.
4. Requests for unusual payment method
If the charity asks you to donate using an unusual payment method like gift cards, cryptocurrency, cash or money transfer, it’s a scam. Scammers like these types of payment methods because they are untraceable. Credit cards or checks are much safer payment methods that can be tracked down if something goes wrong—and a legitimate charity will gladly accept these types of payment methods.
5. Demand for personal information
If a charity asks you to provide personal information—such as your Social Security Number or bank account number—it’s a scam. Real charities don’t need this type of information to process a donation. If you are required to provide personal information you aren’t comfortable sharing, look for another charity to donate to. To find a reputable charity, search for well-known organizations that support the cause you’re interested in.
Veteran charity scams look to take advantage of Americans who want to support our Veterans. If you are unsure whether or not the organization you are dealing with is legitimate, do your research. Remember, reputable charities will not pressure you into making a donation without answering your questions, and they will never ask for sensitive information. When in doubt, search the internet for financial information about the charity you’d like to donate to. If you are targeted by a scammer, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.FTC.gov.