In a plot that seems more fitting in a movie thriller, the United States Marshals caught up to the fugitive after a cross-country chase, accused of siphoning millions of dollars in donations from a phony United States Navy Veterans charity.
Though the accused con artist is not giving up his real name, “Bobby Thompson” is accused of raising $100 million in donations from his bogus Navy veteran charity, U.S. Navy Veterans Association. According to the Associated Press, “[l]ittle, if any, of the money collected by the charity was use to benefit veterans.”
The $100 million in donations was raised in 41 states, resulting in a nationwide scam that touched hundreds, even thousands of well-intentioned victims.
The real Bobby Thompson had his identity and Social Security number stolen, and does not have any affiliation with the phony charity. Authorities are not confirming whether the fugitive is the one that stole Bobby Thompson's identity.
This recent case is potentially the highest profile scam that deliberately targets veterans and those who choose to support veterans.
How to Keep Your Donations Safe
Before you decide to donate to a new charity – veterans or otherwise – it is best to check out the organization to make sure that your hard earned dollars are actually being spent helping others.
- Similarly to this case, a phony charity may rely on using a familiar name in their charity name for legitimacy. In this case, “U.S. Navy Veterans Association” sounds like a reputable organization, but really isn't. Just because a charity has a name that sounds familiar to you or uses parts of another well-known group doesn't always mean that it is legitimate.
- Run the charity's name through the Better Business Bureau's(BBB) Charities and Donors and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Charities and Non-Profits to make sure that the group is legitimate.
- Don't succumb to pressure from a charity. Reputable charities understand that it takes a lot of thought and consideration when a person decides to make a donation. If someone is pushing you for your money and won't let you “think about it,” then walk away.
- Never donate large sums of cash. When you can, donate money through wire transfers, money transfers, or bank or personal checks. Asking the donor whether they'd like a receipt for their financial donation is customary. Those charities that don't offer that option are often bogus.
- If you come across a questionable charity, report it to the BBB or IRS.