Authorities crack down on solicitors
State and federal authorities said they are cracking down on fraudulent telephone solicitors seeking donations to police, veterans and firefighter groups.
The nationwide sweep recently nabbed several calling operations that solicited in South Carolina, Secretary of State Mark Hammond said in a statement.
Called Operation False Charity, the investigation targeted 32 fundraising companies and dozens of nonprofits.
Officials said many of these fundraisers claim they collect money for firefighter, police and veterans causes, but most of the money ends up supporting the fundraising machines.
"South Carolina is one of the most charitable states in the nation, and protecting the charitable donor is a top priority," Hammond said.
He said four professional fundraisers that sought donations in South Carolina were part of the investigation: Courtesy Call, Associated Community Services, Center Stage Attractions and T&T Enterprises.
Courtesy Call Inc. sought donations for police, firefighter and paramedic associations. The company agreed to pay $36,000 in fines, reimburse 81 South Carolina donors and cease all outbound calling to South Carolina residents until the company installs a system to record calls.
Associated Community Services paid a fine of $2,500. Center Stage Attractions paid a fine of $15,000. T&T Enterprises paid a $4,000 fine, Hammond said.
"Simply having the words 'police,' 'firefighter' or 'veteran' in an organization's name doesn't mean that these groups will benefit from the money raised," said Jon Liebowitz, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. "If you want to give to one of these causes, use a charity that has a good track record. Charities that pop up overnight can disappear just as quickly."
For tips on how to avoid charity fraud, visit the Federal Trade Commission website at http://www.ftc.gov/charityfraud/.