OPERATION DONATE WITH HONOR

A federal-state education and enforcement initiative to combat fraudulent and deceptive charitable solicitations claiming to help veterans and military

The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office and Secretary of State’s Office join the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and law enforcement officials and charity regulators from every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, and Puerto Rico in announcing “Operation Donate with Honor,” an education campaign alerting donors to fundraising solicitations falsely promising donations to veterans and service members.

The effort is also supported by the Mississippi Veterans Affairs Board and Mississippi National Guard.

“Giving back to our veterans who have sacrificed so much for our freedom is a worthy cause, but unfortunately, it has also become a common way to scam people out of money and veterans out of resources,” Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann agreed.

“Mississippians are the most generous people in the Nation, always answering the call when it comes to our veterans and service members,” he said. “Operation Donate with Honor continues our Office’s position to ensure funds donated are received by those who need it the most.”

Operation Donate with Honor was developed by the FTC and the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO), the association of state offices charged with oversight of charitable organizations and charitable solicitations in the United States. The initiative pairs enforcement actions with an education campaign to help consumers recognize charitable solicitation fraud and identify legitimate charities.  This includes a social media campaign and a public service announcement video that highlights tips on how to research the legitimacy of charities so consumers can give wisely to veterans organizations:

Veterans fundraising fraud schemes target potential donors online, via telemarketing, direct mail, door-to-door contacts, and at retail stores, falsely promising to help homeless and disabled veterans, to provide veterans with employment counseling, mental health counseling or other assistance, and to send care packages to deployed service members.  Many schemes solicit nationwide.

Stacey Pickering, Executive Director of the Mississippi Veterans Affairs Board, and Lt. Col. Christian Patterson, Director of Public Affairs for the Mississippi Military Department, echoed the importance of this educational initiative.

“On behalf of Mississippi’s over 200,000 veterans, I want to thank Attorney General Hood and Secretary Hosemann for their leadership and protection of our Veterans and their benefits,” Auditor Pickering said. “Our Veterans have stood in the gap to protect our nation, it is only right that we stand in the gap to show them our appreciation and eternal thanks.”

“All efforts to prevent our Mississippi National Guard Soldiers, Airmen and family members from being targets of fraud are greatly appreciated,” Lt. Col. Patterson said. “The ‘Operation Donate With Honor’ partnership will be a strong tool for consumers as they continue to support our force into the future.”

 

Some tips to remember when donating to a charity include:

  • Ask for the charity’s name, website, and physical location;
  • Ask how much of any donation will go to the charitable program you want to support;
  • Check the Secretary of State’s website to see whether the charity is registered in Mississippi: http://charities.sos.ms.gov/online/portal/ch/page/charities-search/Portal.aspx;
  • Search the charity’s name online with the word “scam” or “complaint.” See what other people say about it;
  • Check out the charity’s ratings at the Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Watch, or Charity Navigator;
  • Never pay with cash, a gift card, or by wiring money; and
  • Consider paying by credit card, which is the safest option for security and tax purposes.

For more information about charities and charity laws in Mississippi, visit www.sos.ms.gov/charities or www.ago.state.ms.us. More information from the FTC is accessible at www.FTC.gov/Charity.

Charities register and provide an annual report to the Charities Division of the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office.  The Division audits charities throughout the year, issues enforcement actions against noncompliant or unregistered charities, and engages in educational campaigns to inform the public about charities laws. Complaints about charities, including registered and fraudulent charities, should be sent to the Secretary of State’s Office for investigation.

Any registered or fraudulent charities in the state that are committing criminal acts may be referred by the Secretary of State’s Office for prosecution through the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office.