Imagine this advertisement on your screen:  A soldier narrates (patriotic music playing in the background) how he or she was serving in either Iraq or Afghanistan when an IED terrorist attack occurred. Now, with the aid of some agency, the handicapped service man/woman is able to regain pieces of a normal, productive life. We feel guilt and pity. We open our wallets and donate. We attempt to rectify the injustice of lives shattered by war injuries.

And in that spirit of generosity we are taken in.

Yes, we are taken in by savvy swindlers who have orchestrated a unique and effective sales pitch that is sure to stir our emotions. It astounds me how many organizations claim aid and assistance for our wounded service men and women yet are skimming most of the money for overhead, salaries and promotional campaigns. One of the most egregious pseudo – charity is Help Hospitalized Veterans. The California Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against this organization because of “… self-dealing, paid excessive executive compensation and engaged in fraudulent fundraising and other unlawful activities.” The performance of this charity is abysmal and you may have unknowingly contributed to this scam.

Don’t let well crafted appeals shake the coins from your pockets without first checking out the veracity of a charity. The American Institute for Philanthropy (www.charitywatch.org ) provides in depth research on charities and grades them based on measurable performance standards. Better yet, check in with your local Veterans Administration Services to see how you can provide support for vets in your community.

Keep being compassionate. Couple that compassion with information about your charitable targets. Be vigilant about veteran scams by spreading the word about suspect charities and keep watchful for marketing miscreants. Dig into data before giving your hard earned cash away.

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