Sham charity operators turn the Big C into a Big Con
If you know someone with cancer, you may have considered donating to a cancer-related charity. Many legitimate charities use donations to find treatments and cures. Some support patients and families. But there also are bogus charities that lie, exploit your generosity, and use donations to help their managers, their friends, and their families, not the causes described to donors.
Today, the FTC, along with all 50 states and the District of Columbia, announced they have filed a complaint in federal court against four sham charities — Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, Children’s Cancer Fund of America, and the Breast Cancer Society. Two of the operations have agreed to shut down, and three people agreed to permanent bans against ever managing charities, controlling charitable funds, or fundraising. Litigation continues against the other defendants, seeking to permanently end their allegedly illegal practices.
According to the complaint, the operators of these four so-called charities obtained more than $187 million from donors across the country. Potential donors were told their contributions would go to direct support for patients — things like medicine, cash help and groceries; transportation for chemotherapy; counseling; and hospice care. Some of those promises were just lies – the defendants did not pay for pain medication or hospice care for cancer patients at all. In truth, the sham charities spent most of the donated funds supporting themselves, their families and friends, and their paid fundraisers, who often received 85 percent or more of donations.
Before you give, take precautions to make sure your donations benefit the people and organizations you want to help.
- Sleep on it. You don’t have to make a donation, or even a commitment to donate, on the spot.
- Ask the charity questions directly about what it will do with your money.
- Donate to charities you know and trust.
- Search the name of the organization online. Use the words “complaints” or “scam.”
- Do some research to see if the charity is trustworthy. Check out the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.