November 6, 2017
A Charity Raised Money Saying Donations Would Help Nevada Vets, But
Had No Local Programs
Carson City, NV – Today, Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt, along with 23 states, announced a settlement with VietNow National Headquarters, Inc., an Illinois nonprofit corporation that claimed to help local veterans. The settlement resolves allegations that VietNow misrepresented its charitable programs to donors by appointing a receiver to dissolve VietNow. As a result of this multistate settlement, the organization VietNow will be dissolved.
Since March 2015, VietNow, also known as Veterans Now, had been raising money using deceptive telemarking solicitation scripts. The scripts, which were used by professional fundraiser Corporations of Character, told potential donors that VietNow gave a minimum of 12% after expenses back to veterans in the donor’s state. Other scripts stated that donations helped local veterans in the donor’s state. However, VietNow did not fund any programs that assisted veterans in several states. Nevada was among the states that VietNow did not fund programs. Other VietNow scripts claimed that VietNow provided “medical facilities and treatment” to veterans, when in reality, VietNow did not identify any such programs.
“As a veteran of the Iraq war, I am appalled by those who wrap themselves in the American flag to prey on the good will of others,” said Laxalt. “I am proud that my Bureau of Consumer Protection has worked with other states to permanently prevent this charity from taking advantage of patriotic generosity just days before we celebrate Veterans Day.”
In its most recent financial statement, VietNow reported raising nearly $2 million nationwide. However, this information was found to be misleading, as most of this money was paid to fundraisers with less than 5% of funds raised going towards its charitable programs.
The settlement also obtains injunctive relief against VietNow’s directors and officers, and requires their cooperation in investigations of VietNow’s professional fundraisers. Upon dissolution, VietNow’s remaining funds will be paid to two national and well-respected veteran’s charities, Fisher House Foundation and Operation Homefront.
To best ensure your charitable contribution benefits the causes and individuals you would like to assist, the Office of the Nevada Attorney General offers the following suggestions:
- Avoid any charity or fundraiser that asks for donations in cash or via wire transfer. Those that are unable to provide detailed information about their mission or organization and how donations will be used are suspect.
- Ask for detailed information about the charity, including name, address and telephone number. Then, conduct some online searches of the charity’s name in combination with the words “complaint” or “scam” to learn about its reputation. Using online resources offered by the Better Business Bureau can also provide assurances about the trustworthiness of any particular charity.
- Review the charity’s financial information or its Form 990. For information on the Form 990, visit the Nevada Secretary of State website. If a charity claims to use your donations to help the local community, contact the local agency and confirm whether the agency is familiar with the charity and receives financial support from it.
- Do not feel pressured into making an immediate donation by telephone or in person. The need for donations and the opportunity to give will be present for some time, and legitimate charities will not pressure you into making an immediate donation.
- Avoiding making checks payable to individuals. Also, avoid providing credit card, bank account or social security number information over the phone.
- When texting to donate, confirm the number with the source before you donate. The charge will show up on your mobile phone bill, but donations charges are not immediate.
- Be cautious of unsolicited charitable e-mails and attachments. An unsolicited e-mail is likely part of a scam, and any attachments may have a virus designed to steal financial or other personal information from your computer.
- Social media sites can also perpetuate scams. As with any other charity, take time to investigate the people behind any social media campaigns to ensure they represent a legitimate organization. Some sites, such as GoFundMe, take affirmative steps to ensure fundraising campaigns are vetted, donations are verified and complaints can be made to protect donors.
- Be wary of sound-alike names. Many sham charities intentionally use names that are easily confused with legitimate, respected charities.
During his tenure, Attorney General Laxalt has worked hard to protect active duty servicemembers and veterans. Two years ago this week, his office launched the Office of Military Legal Assistance @EASE Program, the nation’s first attorney general-led, public-private partnership offering our military communities access to pro bono civil legal services. In practice, the program pairs military Servicemembers in need of legal assistance with pro bono private legal counsel for civil matters including consumer fraud, military rights, immigration, landlord/tenant, predatory lending and creditor/debtor issues. The program also provides monthly workshops dedicated to drafting free wills and powers of attorney for Nevada veterans across the state. For more information or receive assistance,visit http://nvagomla.nv.gov/.
Nevada consumers can file complaints regarding fraudulent charities with the Nevada Attorney General’s office. In addition, the FTC provides complaint assistance for anyone who suspects that a scammer is disguising itself as a charity.