Beware of cancer scams when considering charitable giving

Be careful of cancer scams; a shaved head does not a cancer patient make. Photo Credit: Big Mind Zen Center/Flickr.com/CC-BY

Giving to charity or helping a person in financial need is a wonderful thing to do. However, scams are everywhere, and dastardly people will even turn to cancer scams to fleece people.

Common charitable cause a hotbed of fraud

Many people donate money toward cancer research or to help fund treatment. One of the largest charitable organizations in the nation is the American Cancer Society. In 2009, according to Guidestar, a database of information about charities, the ACS, received more than $375 million and spent almost $314 million on “program services,” including research and so forth.

However, charitable causes can attract vultures that will try anything to scam people out of a few bucks.

Beware of fraudulent organizations

Cancer foundation scams are an unfortunate reality. According to Reuters, the Coalition Against Breast Cancer, a New York-based charity, was sued in July by the state of New York. The organization is accused of spending less than 4 percent of the $9.1 million it received in the past five years on anything it purports to donate to, such as breast cancer research or providing free mammograms.

The Better Business Bureau cautioned against donating to the Cancer Fund of America in 2009, saying that less than 1 percent of its revenues went to cancer-related causes. In 2007, the CFoA raised $17 million and spent only $54,000 on expenses other than hosting fundraisers, salaries and consultants. Of that, $50,000 was a donation to a cancer charity that the organization was ordered to make by a Georgia court.

Personal fundraisers also risky

Some individuals even fake cancer to scam people out of money. According to the Daily Mail, Ruth Angelica Gomez created a charity called the Achieve the Dream Foundation in May and told friends, family and her fiance that she was battling leukemia. She received $17,000 in donations. She faces felony charges.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Linda Hoppenstein-Cohen was ordered in May to repay $10,000 to former Baltimore Raven Mike Flynn after soliciting money to help her fight cancer. She handed him $2,000 in front of the courthouse, which he immediately counted.

A Syracuse, N.Y. judge, recently denied release for a woman awaiting trial for fraud. She received more than $1,000 for treatment of her “breast cancer.” Judge William Walsh, a cancer survivor, told her attorney “bail stands” after telling her “virtually every family in America” has to deal with cancer, according to Syracuse.com.

Research a cause before giving cash

If considering a donation to a charitable cause, check out the organization. If a person solicits for their treatment, offer to pay the hospital or doctor. Emails saying “cancer boy wants to be firefighter; please give” are fake.

Ask to see a charities’ IRS Form 990, says BankRate. This will show income and outlays. There are foundations, according to the Christian Science Monitor, that provide information about charitable organizations. CharityWatch.org, Charity Navigator, Guidestar and Great NonProfits are good places to start.

Sources

Guidestar

Reuters

BBB

Daily Mail

Baltimore Sun

Syracuse.com

Bankrate.com

Christian Science Monior

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