TOPEKA – A charity claiming to raise funds to support veterans has been shut down following an investigation by Kansas and other states into its solicitation practices, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said.
VietNow National Headquarters, Inc., an Illinois nonprofit corporation, agreed to be dissolved and disburse its remaining funds to legitimate veterans organizations. 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 veterans charities: Fisher House Foundation and Operation Homefront.
“When Kansans are asked to give money to support a charitable organization, they trust that those funds are going to support the cause, not line the pockets of professional fundraisers,” Schmidt said.
Since March 2015, VietNow—which also uses the name VeteransNow—had been raising money using deceptive telemarketing solicitation scripts. The scripts, which were used by professional fundraiser Corporations of Character, told potential donors that VietNow gave a minimum of 12 percent after expenses back to veterans in the donors’ state; other scripts stated that donations helped local veterans in the donors’ state. But in response to an investigation by the Michigan Attorney General’s office, VietNow admitted that it had not funded any programs that assisted veterans in Michigan; nor did VietNow have local programs in most other states. Other VietNow scripts claimed that VietNow provided “medical facilities and treatment” to veterans, but again, VietNow’s response identified no such programs.
In its most recent financial statement, VietNow reported raising nearly $2 million nationwide. But most of this cash was paid to fundraisers, with less than 5 percent of funds raised going to its charitable programs.
Schmidt urged Kansans to do their homework when donating to charities. Con artists often use names similar to those of well-known charities and popular charitable causes in efforts to sound legitimate. Schmidt’s office offered the following tips to keep in mind when making charitable contributions:
* Ask for written information, including how much of the money raised is actually used for charitable purposes and how much will end up in the hands of the professional fundraiser.
* Be careful with telemarketers requesting contributions ‑ oftentimes the telemarketer keeps a substantial portion of the donation.
* Do not be pressured into making a contribution or pledge.
* Do not feel obligated to send a donation to charities that send token gifts such as key chains, greeting cards, mailing labels, etc.
* Make certain the charitable organization actually serves the need it claims to serve.
* Ask for financial statements of the organization to determine who will benefit from the donations.
* Make a personal giving plan and support well established charities on your terms, not in response to marketing solicitations.
More information on staying safe from scams is available on the attorney general’s consumer protection website at www.InYourCornerKansas.org.