State agency issues warning on solicitations

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Consumer Affairs cautions the public that an organization by the name “Veteran’s Miracle Network” of Stafford, Va., has solicited contributions from Virginia citizens for allegedly charitable purposes. The organization might also go by the names “Project Foot” and “Operation Walk America.”

As of Dec. 14, 2011, and after multiple requests by VDACS, this organization has not filed registration documents as required by law. Contributors are cautioned that their contributions to this organization or its affiliates may be used for non-charitable purposes.

The Department recommends that before making a donation or making a purchase in the name of a charity, citizens should consider the following tips for donating wisely:

Know the charity.  Never give to a charity unless you know its history, purpose and reputation. Before donating, be sure the name of the organization corresponds to the charity you know and respect, as disreputable organizations often use sound-alike names to prey on the good name of well-known charities.  If you are unfamiliar with the charity, research it carefully before donating.

Request information. The majority of telephone solicitation calls are done by professional solicitors under contract with the charities. The professional solicitors often receive a specific percentage of each donation. As part of your research into the charity, you may wish to consider asking how much of your donation will be spent on fundraising and administrative overhead versus how much will actually support the charity’s purpose. Virginia law requires telephone solicitors to tell you the name of the professional fundraising company that employs them and that they are paid to solicit your donation. Be suspicious of any solicitor who does not readily volunteer this information.

Verify registration with OCA. State law requires charities that solicit donations in Virginia, except for certain exempt groups, to register with the OCA. To determine whether a charity is registered with OCA, please visit www.vdacs.virginia.gov/consumers/index.shtml and click on “Charitable Search.” You may also call the Consumer Protection Hotline toll free at 800.552.9963 statewide, or 804.786.2042 in the Richmond area.

Do not give cash or give in to pressure. Once you decide to make a donation, write a check payable directly to the charity and not to the individual solicitor. Legitimate charities do not expect you to donate immediately if you are unfamiliar with their services.

Examine gift offers. Mail solicitations often come with a small gift such as greeting cards or personalized address labels. The charity sometimes implies that the gift is yours to keep only if you make a donation. State law, however, specifies that unless you asked for the item, it is yours to keep without making a donation.


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