PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, along with officials in every other state, filed a federal lawsuit against four charities and their leaders — who claimed to be raising money for cancer.
The Federal Trade Commission said a group of cancer-related charities swindled millions of people out of millions of dollars.
“Prospective donors were told that their contributions would directly help cancer patients, including children with caner and women suffering from breast cancer,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
According to the FTC, The Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, Children’s Cancer Fund of America, and The Breast Cancer Society used aggressive fundraising techniques to collect donations between 2008 and 2012.
Rich said consumers often received phone calls asking them to contribute to children hospice support, medical supplies, and medications.
“Those were outright lies,” Rich said.
The FTC said the four charities in question scammed more than $187 million from people across the country over the years– and the money was spent on cars, cruises, vacations, and even dating website memberships.
The government is now shutting down two of the charities, and three of the leaders have been banned from future fundraising endeavors.
“Many consumers would be surprised to find out that most of the people in this situation here aren’t going to do jail time,” said Sandra Miniutti, a charity navigator.
Each year, the Better Business Bureau warns of charity schemes. Consumers are always urged to do research on a charity before donating.
“We have 20 standards of charitable accountability in which we break down how much of your dollar goes to the programs and services, versus the heads — millions of dollars going to salaries,” said BBB spokesperson Paula Fleming.
The Breast Cancer Society agreed to shut down its practice — but in a statement it said it will continue some programming under a different organization.