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How To Identify Veterans Charity Scams (10 Examples)

Here’s how to spot a veterans charity scam and make sure your donations are going to the right place — in the pockets of our veterans.

veteran charity scams

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      Are You Supporting a Legitimate Veterans Charity?

      Fraudsters will target anyone with their scams — even people looking to help support our active and retired military personnel. Take the example of Help the Vets, an official-sounding veterans charity that was found to be diverting up to 95% of its $20 million in donations to covering expenses and the founder’s salary and benefits [*].

      Veterans charity scams like this have become increasingly common in recent years. According to the latest data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [*]:

      American veterans and military personnel lost over $414 million to fraud in 2022 – a 55% increase over the year before.

      If you want to support veterans and their families, the last thing you want is for your donations to end up in the pocket of scammers.

      In this guide, we’ll explain how veterans charity scams work, the warning signs to look out for, and what to do if you’ve accidentally donated to a fraudulent veterans charity.

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      What Are Veterans Charity Scams? How Do They Work?

      Veterans charity scams — or veteran fundraising scams — are fraudulent charities that raise money under the pretense of helping military veterans. But little to none of the funds ever make it into the pockets of veterans.

      There are many scams that target veterans directly. But charity scams target military families, active-duty military service members, and supporters who are most likely to donate to veteran-related causes.

      Here’s how a veterans charity scam typically works:

      • First, scammers create fake charities with veteran or military-related names. Fraudsters use names that sound real or that mimic legitimate veterans charities in order to build trust. Fake charities often pop up during the holiday season or around events like Veterans Day.
      • Next, they target potential donors online and over the phone. Scammers will scour military-focused groups on social media or use phishing emails, texts, and telemarketing phone calls to target victims who show interest in helping the military.
      • During the donation process, you’ll be asked to provide personal information. To scam you further, fraudsters may ask for sensitive personal details, such as your home address, phone number, pictures of your ID, or even your Social Security number (SSN).
      • Afterwards, you’ll be bombarded by more scams and could even become the victim of identity theft. Scammers try to squeeze as much as possible out of their victims. If you donate to a fake cause, you’ll most likely be targeted by more “offers” or could even have your identity stolen using the personal information you provided.

      The bottom line: Falling for a veterans charity scam can do more than just steal your money. If you’ve give up personal information or financial details to a fraudulent charity, you should consider signing up for identity theft protection.

      🏆 Get #1-rated protection from scams, fraud, and identity theft. If scammers have your personal information, they could steal your identity or empty your bank account. Try Aura’s award-winning identity theft protection solution free for 14 days.

      10 Ways To Identify a Fake Veterans Charity

      1. Check the charity's credentials online
      2. Look for bad reviews on Google and Facebook
      3. Beware of warning signs like hard-sell tactics
      4. Make sure the charity’s website is secure
      5. Ask if you were contacted directly by them
      6. They want you to donate using cash, wire transfers, or gift cards
      7. Their name is strangely similar to another well-known charity
      8. You can't find additional information or news articles about them
      9. They offer prizes or "sweepstakes" in return for donations
      10. They ask for personal or sensitive information

      Veterans are part of a vulnerable group. Many don’t have the money or resources to easily transition back into civilian life. These scams exploit patriotism to steal donations and information that can be used for identity theft.

      Here are 10 ways to ensure the military charity you want to support is actually doing its part:

      1. Check the charity’s credentials online

      Legitimate charities are tightly regulated. You can check if a charitable organization has the proper credentials on websites such as:

      Even your state government’s official website is a good place to check, as charities are typically required to register with the attorney general’s office.

      💡 Related: AARP Identity Theft Protection Review: Is It Worth It?

      2. Look for bad reviews on Google and Facebook

      Fraudulent charities can still sometimes make their way onto official lists. But if others have been scammed by them, you’ll find bad reviews on Google, Facebook, or forum sites like Reddit.

      To research a veterans charity’s reviews, search for: [Charity name] + “fraud” (or “scam,” “reviews,” “complaint,” etc.) You can even get more granular and search just for people on Reddit’s experience with the charity by searching: site:reddit.com [charity name].

      💡 Related: How To Avoid The Latest Charity Scams of 2023

      3. Beware of warning signs like hard-sell tactics and vague language

      Charities are usually run by passionate people. But high-pressure and hard-sell tactics are a warning sign that you’re dealing with a veterans charity scam.

      Listen to the language the solicitor uses. Is it threatening or trying to create a sense of urgency? Are you being asked to pay upfront to receive benefits? Do you feel uncomfortable about not donating? Are they overly vague to the point where you’re not sure how they even help vets?

      Don’t be won over by overly sentimental language. If it’s difficult to understand where your money is actually going to be used, it could be a scam.

      Did you know? As of 2019 [*], there were over 4 million veterans above the age of 75 in the U.S. Outside charity scams, this group is especially vulnerable to other senior citizen scams.

      4. Make sure the charity’s website is secure

      Fake veterans charities may use hastily built websites that aren’t secure — and therefore are unsafe to enter your credit card or other sensitive information on.

      A simple way to check whether a site is secure or not is to look for “HTTPS” as well as a padlock symbol next to the URL.

      💡 Related: How To Identify Fake Websites (11 Warning Signs)

      5. Ask if you were contacted directly by someone from the charity

      Legitimate charities won’t contact you out of the blue. But with fake charities, scammers directly target veterans and military families claiming to be old friends who now run a military charity.

      If someone contacts you about donating to a military charity, verify who they are. If they text you, ask for the name of their charity and then check them on the sites above. Afterward, contact the charity through their official phone number to ensure you’re not being phished.

      Pro tip: Phone solicitations from charities have to follow specific guidelines, such as only calling between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. and disclosing their name and purpose. Charity calls can’t use a robocall or prerecorded message, either. If they do, it’s a scam.

      6. They want you to donate using cash, wire transfers, or gift cards

      Fake veterans charities will almost always ask for donations via suspicious methods — such as cryptocurrencies, gift cards, wire transfers, or cash. These methods are hard to trace and even harder to refund once you’ve sent them.

      Instead, look for charities that accept credit card or check payments as those are covered by more protective measures.

      Keep records of your donations and regularly check your bank statements to ensure you haven’t been charged more than you donated or are being billed regularly.

      ⚡️ Get alerted fast if you’re the victim of fraud. Aura monitors your credit, identity, and online accounts 24/7 and can alert you in near real-time of suspicious activity. Plus, you’ll get access to 24/7 support and $1 million identity theft insurance. Try Aura for free today.

      7. Their name is strangely similar to a well-known charity

      Fraudulent charities will use names that are close to legitimate ones in the hope that you’ll mistake them for the established organization. If the charity name is close enough, but you’re unsure, do your research using the charity watchdog sites above.

      For example, many fake charities include “Veterans of America,” “veterans’ benefits,” or “disabled veterans” in their name.

      8. You can’t find additional information or news articles about them

      Charities rely on press to find new donors. Do a Google News search for the charity’s name. If nothing comes up, they could be a scam. This is also a good way to see if there are any negative reviews or news stories about the charity.

      💡 Related: How To Tell If Someone Is Scamming You Online

      9. They offer prizes or “sweepstakes” in return for donations

      Some scams will try to persuade you to donate by offering prizes in return. If a charity guarantees some sort of reward for donating to them, it’s a scam.

      10. They ask for personal or sensitive information

      Scammers aren’t just after your donations. Charity scams are another way that identity thieves can get access to sensitive information like your full name, address, birthday, and SSN. Prevent identity theft by being extra-careful about who you give this information to. And never share passwords, account information, or PINs with anyone — especially online.

      🥇 Don’t settle for second-best protection. Aura has been rated the #1 identity theft protection solution by Money.com, Forbes, TechRadar, and more. Try Aura for free today.

      What About Fundraising Campaigns on Social Media?

      You’ve more than likely seen GoFundMe pages and other crowdfunding campaigns claiming to help veterans. But are they safe to use?

      The short answer is: sometimes.

      Veterans charity scammers are well aware of the power of social media. If you want to donate to a cause on social media, follow these best practices:

      • Find out who is behind the crowdfunding campaign. Any money raised goes to the campaign organizer, who then uses it (hopefully) for what they promised. Research the person behind the GoFundMe or other campaigns to make sure they’re legit.
      • Make sure the donation is tax deductible. Check the organization’s name using the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search tool.
      • Read the rules for each crowdfunding platform. Each platform has its own set of rules on what’s allowed, what fees are charged, and how and when it will send money to the organizer. Look for platforms with policies around fraudulent campaigns and that have checks in place to make sure organizers aren’t scamming you online.
      • Contact the person who shared the campaign online. If a friend shared the campaign, contact them offline and ask if it’s legit. Scammers can take over social media accounts and use them to spread fraudulent charity campaigns.
      • Do a reverse image search of photos used on the campaign page. Search the images in Google to see if they’re associated with other charities or nonprofits. Scams will steal images from legitimate charities to get you to trust them.

      Were You Scammed by a Fake Veterans Charity?

      Even if you do your own research, there’s always a chance that you might accidentally donate to a fake veterans charity.

      As soon as you realize you’ve been scammed, you should:

      • Report the fraud to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov and to the attorney general’s office of the state in which the campaign organizer lives.
      • Contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and alert them to the scam so they can warn other veterans and military families.
      • If the scam took place on social media or a crowdfunding site like GoFundMe, report the fraud to them so they can take it down or freeze their funds.
      • If you think you’ve given someone sensitive information like your SSN or bank details, look for the warning signs of identity theft and file an official report with the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov.
      • Protect your online identity by changing all your online passwords and enabling two-factor authentication (2FA). You might want to set up a password manager to keep track of your login information.
      • Monitor your credit report, bank statements, and credit cards for suspicious activity. If you see anything, contact your bank or your credit card issuer’s fraud department.
      • If you’ve lost money or think you’ve been the victim of identity theft, you should also file a police report with your local law enforcement. Then, follow the steps to help you recover after your identity is stolen.
      • Consider signing up for identity theft protection. Aura monitors your bank, credit, and personal accounts for any signs of fraud and alerts you up to 250X faster than the competition3.
      💪 Protect you and your loved ones from fraud. Aura’s all-in-one solution keeps you and your entire family safe from identity theft and online scams. Try Aura for free today.

      The Bottom Line: Beware of Veterans Charity Scams

      American veterans deserve our respect. And if you can help them out financially, that’s even better. But any situation where money and emotions collide is a prime target for scammers.

      Follow these fraud prevention tips to protect yourself from donating to fraudulent charities or giving scammers access to your sensitive information. And for peace of mind, consider signing up for Aura’s identity theft protection and credit monitoring.

      Ready for ironclad identity theft protection? Try Aura for 14 Days Free.

      Award-winning identity theft protection with AI-powered digital security tools, 24/7 White Glove support, and more. Try Aura for free.

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