What could possibly go wrong with a charity called “Marines and Mickey” that would pay for the cost of Disney vacations for military families as well as cover the travel coasts of people to see family members graduate from marine boot camp in South Carolina and California? The problem was with the charity’s founder, John Shannon Simpson who scammed donors out of almost a half a million dollars. Simpson, who presented himself as a retired Marine master sergeant was able to leverage his knowledge of the Marines with his skills as a conman to convince people to give to his charity. The truth is that while Simpson had been in the Marines, he never achieved the rank of master sergeant and was court-martialed for going AWOL. While he claimed that 100% of donated funds would go to help military families, less than 20% of donations were used for those charitable purposes. He kept the rest of the rest of the funds. Ultimately Simpson was charged and convicted of wire fraud. In July he was sentenced to four years in prison.
Phony charities have always proven to be profitable to scammers. By following a few simple rules, however, you can keep from becoming scammed. Never provide credit card information over the phone to someone soliciting on behalf of a charity, even if the charity is one that you know is legitimate. You can never be sure of the true identity of anyone contacting you by phone. Even if your Caller ID indicates the call is from a legitimate charity, it is simple for a scammer to “spoof” a telephone number and make it appear as if his or her call is legitimate. Most importantly, before you give to any charity, check out the charity with www.charitynavigator.org where you can learn whether or not the charity itself is a scam. You can also see how much of the money that the charity collects actually goes toward its charitable purposes and how much it uses for fund raising and administrative costs.
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