NJ residents gave $6M to bogus cancer charities: Here’s how to protect yourself
Accused of defrauding donors who believed all their money would assist cancer patients, two national charities have agreed to a $75.8 million settlement with state and federal authorities.
That's the amount people had donated to Cancer Fund of America and Cancer Support Services between 2008 and 2012. Organization officials, howeverm spent the money on cruises, dating website memberships and concert tickets, a federal lawsuit alleged.
As part of the settlement, the charities have been dissolved and their former president is banned from any charitable solicitation in the future.
THINKING ABOUT GIVING? Scroll down to read important charity tips.
"Today I'm pleased to stand with our state and federal partners in announcing this settlement, which resolves allegations of some incredibly callous, deceitful and greed-driven conduct," state Acting Attorney General Robert Lougy said Wednesday in a news release.
Altogether, according to the lawsuit, the charities took in $187 million from donors across the country, including more than $6 million in New Jersey. The individual defendants, their families, friends and professional fundraisers often received 85 percent or more of every contribution, the lawsuit alleged.
Instead of helping provide pain medication to suffering children or transport cancer patients to chemotherapy appointments, the sham charities would spend charitable donations on perks for a small clique of family and friends.
Part of the judgment against Cancer Fund of America and Cancer Support Services will be satisfied through liquidation of their assets.
All 50 states, along with the Federal Trade Commission and Washington, D.C., took part in the civil action against the charities.
Two other bogus cancer charities included in the original complaint — the Children's Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society — closed last year as part of a settlement.
Don't get duped!
State regulators suggest that people should never feel pressured to give over the phone or to commit on the first call. And you should always learn more about a charity before giving money.
“Ask for literature and read it. Ask questions. Honest charities encourage you to do so,” the state Division of Consumer Affairs says.
“No legitimate organization will expect you to contribute immediately, even if you have given in the past.”
Find out if a charity is registered, whether it uses a professional fund-raiser, or has a history of complaints, call the Charities Hotline at 973-504-6215 or visit the Division's website.
Here are more tips from the state
■ All solicitors must disclose whether they are a volunteer or a paid solicitor. If they don’t, report the organization to the Charities Registration Section of the Division of Consumer Affairs at 973-504-6215.
■ Be aware of phone calls that tell you that you have won a prize
■ Callers who say that a messenger will come to your home to pick up your contribution.
■ Solicitors who claim you gave in the past, when you don’t remember doing so.
■ Don't give your credit card number to strangers over the phone
■ Don't respond to letters that say you have pledged money unless you are certain you did.
■ Keep track of your donations.
■ Don't pay attention to harassing letters.
■ Even if you agree to donate over the phone, you are not legally obligated to make the donation if you are uncomfortable with the pledge.
■ Don't give cash. Write a check and make it out to the charity.