Over 45,000 nonprofit organizations that are registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are exclusively devoted to helping military veterans and their families. On the surface, that is a great statistic. The trouble is that not everything is always as it seems. By nature, some charities are going to do a better job of handling transparency and accountability. Not every business is in the same state of financial health.

Today’s technology has taken away a lot of the legwork when it comes to finding the charity that’s right for you. Plenty of charity marketplaces exists that can help match people with the causes they wish to support. In addition, there are activist groups that are holding charities accountable on a constant basis through their own research. CharityWatch is a great resource to find out where your money is actually going. They use a diligent rating system that examines charities from every angle.

The role of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is to protect the American consumer against deceptive and unfair business practices. They do this through a combination of law enforcement, education, and advocacy. To this end, they have compiled a list of fraudulent charities that consumers should avoid. In some of the worst cases, the impostor veteran organizations pocket up to 95% of the money that should be going to those who need it most. 

Titles can be very misleading. Do not let a charity name fool you into thinking it’s legitimate. A perfect example of this type of deception is a word meant to spur emotion. Act of Valor is a business that has no registration with the Internal Revenue Service. CharityNavigator, another citizen watch database, points out that this company tends to solicit directly from the general public while posing as a nonprofit. In addition to harming innocent consumers and military veterans and their families, it is also a violation of federal tax law. Another fraudulent charity is the American Disabled Veterans Foundation, also called Help the Vets. This is especially disreputable because there are two demographics being harmed in addition to the donor. Disabled veterans need all of the support they can get. Fortunately, this fake charity has since been dissolved.