Herring distributes charitable contributions from shutdown of telefunding operation
Attorney General Mark Herring and a coalition of 38 attorneys general along with the Federal Trade Commission are distributing almost $500,000 from a settlement resulting from the shutdown of a massive telefunding operation to nonprofits across the country.
In March, Herring announced that he had shut down a massive telefunding operation that bombarded 67 million consumers with over 1.3 billion deceptive charitable fundraising calls – mostly illegal robocalls – over 40.3 million of which were made to Virginians. The defendants collected more than $110 million using their deceptive solicitations.
“Organizations that not only take advantage of kind-hearted Virginians but also use technology and robocalls to repeatedly harass consumers must be held accountable,” Herring said. “I’m pleased we were able to distribute these funds to charitable organizations that deserve it and will make sure the money goes towards the people who need it the most. I want to thank my Consumer Protection Section as well as our state and federal partners for their dedication and hard work on this case.”
Associated Community Services and a number of related defendants that made deceptive fundraising calls agreed to settle allegations that they duped generous Americans into donating to charities that failed to provide the services they promised. Through the court action, the defendants paid almost $500,000 to the states to be distributed to court-approved nonprofits for the charitable purposes donors originally intended to support.
The funds surrendered by the defendants were paid to an escrow fund administered by the Florida Attorney General. The court approved those funds be directed to the American Cancer Society, Semper Fi & America’s Fund, and the Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Each recipient organization will use these funds to support the causes defendants purported to support when soliciting donations from consumers. The funds recovered will now be used to assist Americans with cancer screenings and treatment, military service members and their families, and first responders and their families.
Tips to remember when donating to charities and other organizations:
- On crowdfunding sites: Check the creator or page owner’s credentials and try to confirm its authenticity and seriousness, and look for indicators of endorsement or legitimacy that the page is actually collecting donations for a particular victim or organization. Some sites offer verification and transparency measures for campaigns. Look for those markers of authenticity, and check out the site’s fraud protection measures
- Be cautious, and if you feel uneasy, contribute to a more established charity in the community
- Be wary of charities that spring up overnight in connection with a current event or natural disaster. They may make a compelling case for you to make a donation but even if they are legitimate, they may not have the infrastructure or experience to get your donation to the affected area or people
- Only give to charities and fundraisers you can confirm are reliable and legitimate. Scrutinize charities with consumer advocates or friends and find out how much of your donation will go to the charity’s programs and services
- Beware of “copy-cat” names that sound like reputable charities. Some scammers use names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate organizations
- Be especially cautious if you do not initiate the contact with the charity
- Do not be pressured into giving. Legitimate organizations will not expect you to contribute immediately
- Ask for written information about the charity, including name, address, and telephone number. Legitimate organizations will give you materials about the charity’s mission, how your donation will be used, and proof that your contribution is tax-deductible. Just because a “charity” has a tax identification number does not mean your contribution is tax-deductible
- Avoid cash donations. Make checks payable to the charitable organization and not to an individual collecting a donation. For security and tax record purposes, you may wish to pay by credit card
- If contributing over the Internet, be sure the web site you are visiting belongs to the charity to which you want to donate. See if other legitimate web sites will link to that web site. Make sure the web site is secure and offers protection of your credit card number
- If a charity is soliciting contributions in Virginia, verify its registration with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs (“OCRP”) at (804) 786-1343, or by searching OCRP’s Charitable Organization Database online
- While a legitimate charity should be registered with OCRP to solicit contributions in Virginia, registration alone does not mean that the organization will be effective.