Utah officials among group putting stop to telemarketing charity fraud

Local News

Unknown caller. A man holds a phone in his hand and thinks to end the call. Incoming from an unknown number. Incognito or anonymous

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utah officials have reached a settlement agreement with 46 agencies from 38 states and the District of Columbia to put a stop to a massive tele-funding operation.

The massive charity fraud operation is said to have bombarded 67 million consumers with 1.3 billion deceptive charitable fundraising calls.

The mostly-illegal robocalls allowed defendants to collect more than $110 million with deceptive solicitations, officials say.

A Thursday release says the Utah Department of Commerce and the Utah Attorney General’s Office are among those in the agreement.

Associated Community Services (ACS) and a number of related defendants have agreed to settle charges that they duped millions of Americans into donating to fraudulent charities.

The defendants say they knew the organizations for which they were fundraising spent little to no money on charitable causes they claimed to support – in some cases, as little as one-tenth of one percent, officials say, adding that the defendants kept as much as 90 cents of every dollar solicited.

“Utahns contribute more of their income to charity each year than any other state. That ethic of service to others is a core part of our state’s identity,” notes Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and Department of Commerce Director Margaret W. Busse in a joint statement. “Safeguarding citizens against charity fraud allows Utahns to give to causes with confidence that their donation will help those in need, not line the pockets of the corrupt.”

According to the complaint, the defendants made deceptive pitches since at least 2008 on behalf of organizations that claimed to support homeless veterans, victims of house fires, breast cancer patients, children with autism, and other causes.

Officials say ACS was, in addition, the major fundraiser for the sham Cancer Fund charities shut down by the FTC and states in 2015.

“With our state partners, we’re bringing our second major action in the last few months against
fundraisers who deceive people—in this case by using illegal robocalls—into donating to charities,” says Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “People who want to make their donations count should start at www.ftc.gov/charity for tips on how to spot scams.”

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