How to support the troops without getting duped

Minnesota Attorney General, Lori Swanson

Minnesota is home to more than 330,000 veterans and, according to a recent study, the third most generous state in the country for charitable donations. This is something to be proud of, but it also makes Minnesotans a target for sham veterans charities trying to raise a quick buck by exploiting people’s goodwill. A few simple guidelines can help donors ensure that their gifts of money actually benefit our brave men and women in uniform and their families.

Programs of little value
Some bogus charities claim to provide things like medical services or shelter to needy veterans, when they may only give coupons for visits to chiropractors or hotels on the other side of the country. If a charity makes vague claims that it helps veterans, ask for specifics about how. Request examples of past assistance it provided to veterans, and ask how much of a donation will be used for charity versus overhead and fundraising expenses. Legitimate charities can and will answer these questions.
If you receive a call out of the blue from a supposed veterans charity, ask the caller whether they are employed by the charity or a fundraising company. Many questionable charities use fundraising companies that get paid 80 or even 90 percent or more of the donation that you make. Under Minnesota law, a fundraising company must identify itself as being a fundraising company, not a charity.

Phony use of
military insignias
Some phony veterans charities associate themselves with the military or veterans through the use of official military seals, emblems, logos, and other insignia. Military insignia are protected by law from unauthorized use, and are rarely licensed for use, even to charities. Their use by an unfamiliar charity can be a red flag to donors, as can use of emblems designed to “dress up” the charity to look more legitimate.

Copycat veterans charities
Questionable veterans charities sometimes use names and logos that are similar to those of legitimate organizations that you might have heard of or donated to in the past. Solicitors for these charities may even impersonate veterans to gain donors’ trust. If something about the organization doesn’t feel right to you, trust your gut. You can always call the charity to which you want to donate to find out if the solicitation was actually from that charity.

Donate wisely
If you want to ensure your donation goes to a legitimate veterans charity, do some research beforehand. The Attorney General’s website,, allows you to research veterans charities by name, and provides basic financial information about such charities’ activities, including what portion of your donation is actually spent on helping veterans.
For more information on veterans charities—or to file a complaint about a potentially questionable veterans charity—you may also contact the Attorney General’s Office at:
Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori
445 Minnesota Street,
Suite 1400
St. Paul, MN 55101
(651) 296-3353 (Twin
Cities Calling Area)
(800) 657-3787
(Outside the Twin
TTY: (651) 297-7206
or (800) 366-4812

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