These Charities Are the Biggest Scammers Looking to Take Your Money

Giving money to charity is a great way to help yourself and others. While most charities are on the up-and-up, some charities and organizations aren’t as wholesome as you might think. Before you donate your money, make sure you’re not writing a check to these scamming charities. These are the worst offenders, according to Charity Navigator, that don’t give as much money as you think to the causes they supposedly represent. The worst offender (No. 1) passes only 5.3% of donations to a cause near and dear to first responders. 

California Police Activities League

The California Police Activities League is a questionable charity. | California Police Activities League via Facebook.

Percent of budget donated to cause: 32.2%

We’re going to discuss a similarly named charity in a minute, although the one that comes later is much worse, which is really saying something. Of the charities on this list, the California Police Activities League gives the most away, but it still spends more than 56% of its budget on fundraising and spends 75 cents for every dollar it raises.

Next: A noble mission, but there’s cause for concern.

Find the Children

Find the Children Charity

Find the Childen spends a lot on fundraising. | Find the Children via Facebook

Percent of budget donated to cause: 30%

We’re all for bringing missing children home and preventing abuse, which are the two main pillars of Find the Children’s mission. However, the fact it scores a 27.59 (out of 100) from Charity Navigator is a cause for concern.

Next: There’s something a little shady about the paperwork.

Police Athletic League of New Jersey

New Jersey Police Athletic League

The New Jersey Police Athletic League didn’t file its paperwork with the IRS. | Jersey City Police Athletic League via Facebook.

Percent of budget donated to cause: 28.7%

There’s something shady at the Police Athletic League of New Jersey, and it’s not just that it uses close to 61% of its budget to pay fundraisers. The folks at Charity Navigator are concerned about the League’s IRS paperwork, which means you risk throwing your money away if you give to this charity:

Next: We don’t see the honor in the way this charity does business.

HonorBound Foundation

Veterans Saluting

Veterans don’t get too much help from HonorBound. | flySnow/iStock/Getty Images

Percent of budget donated to cause: 26.3%

This charity is supposed to help Vietnam War and Persian Gulf veterans and their families. According to (Charity Navigator ), the people who really need the help don’t get it, and it’s easy to see why. The foundation spends 66% of its budget on professional fundraising, so there’s not much left over for people in need.

Next: A charity where 68% of costs go towards fundraising.

Childhood Leukemia Foundation

Childhood Leukemia Foundation

They could be doing so much more to help. | Childhood Leukemia Foundation via Facebook

Percent of budget donated to cause: 23.1%

Childhood leukemia is a tough situation for children and their parents to be in, and they could use the help. Unfortunately, the Childhood Leukemia Fund could do a lot more to help. For every dollar it raises for the cause, 70 cents go to fundraising efforts. So of the $4,653,073 revenue it reported in 2016, $3.14 million went toward paying for fundraising and less than a quarter went to patients in need.

Next: No longer the worst charity, but still not great.

Kids Wish Network

Kids Wish Network

They’ve improved their standing, but not enough to get off the list. | Kids Wish Network via Facebook

Percent of budget donated to cause: 22.3%

At one time, Kids Wish Network was considered the worst charity in America as just 3% of income went to actually granting wishes to sick children. Kids Wish Network has improved and now more than 22% of the money goes towards its cause, but that’s not enough to avoid being one of the worst charities. Charity Navigator estimates more than 55% of the money Kids Wish Network brings in is spent on professional fundraising expenses.

Next: Where does the money go?

California Police Youth Charities

California Police Youth Charities

They paid millions to telemarketers. | California Police Youth Charities via Facebook

Percent of budget donated to cause: 17.6%

This charity’s mission, according to its website, is “to build relationships between the law enforcement community and California youth.” But it could be doing a lot better. A report by CBS Sacramento found that CPYC paid millions of dollars to telemarketing firms to raise money, which left little for the charity itself. Charity Navigator estimates a little more than $323,000 of its $1.78 million in revenue in 2015 went to its cause. The website also gives CPYC poor marks for its financials and potential conflicts of interest.

Next: Helping missing children may cost more than you think.

The Committee for Missing Children

Parents' hands with baby

Parents’ hands with baby | dimid_86/iStock/Getty Images

Percent of budget donated to cause: 10.7%

The Committee for Missing Children has been operating since 1991 as an advocacy group for the parents of missing children. One primary function they serve is helping to circulate the images of missing children, and they report having assisted in the recovery of over 1,200 missing children. But when it comes to money management, the charity leaves much to be desired according to a 0-star financial score on Charity Navigator. While administrative expenses are low, fundraising expenses are high taking up 87.2% of costs.

Next: A noble, if underfunded, mission for this next charity.

Cancer Survivors’ Fund

Cancer cell made in 3d software

It’s hard to know how helpful they really are. | vitanovski/iStock/Getty Images

Percent of budget donated to cause: 8.4%

The Cancer Survivors’ Fund has a noble mission: To provide scholarships and prosthetics for young cancer survivors. But it gets poor marks from Charity Navigator for its donor privacy policy, among other things, and one wonders just how helpful the charity is. For the fiscal year ending in March of 2017, it spent a little over $127,000 on funding the causes it represents. However, the cost of a prosthetic limb can range up to $50,000. At that rate, the charity could afford two-and-a-half prosthetic limbs.

Next: Where there’s smoke…

Firefighters Charitable Foundation

Only a tiny fraction actually goes to those who need it. | Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Percent of budget donated to cause: 7.3%

You might not know it from the name, but the Firefighters Charitable Foundation strives to give money to people affected by fires as well as volunteer fire departments. But based on numbers reported by Charity Navigator, just $444,712 went to such efforts in 2015. Meanwhile, close to $6 million was spent on fundraising and administrative expenses. Firefighters Charitable Foundation doesn’t get high marks from Charity Navigator or users writing reviews on the website Great Nonprofits.

Next: The No. 1 worst charity gives just over 5% away.

Association For Firefighters and Paramedics

firefighter carrying equipment over to the truck

That money is going toward fundraising and parties. | iStock

Percent of budget donated to cause: 5.3%

Back in 2009, the Orange County Register (California) reported on this charity for being one of the worst in the United States. Things didn’t get any better after that. More than 85% of the budget is spent on fundraising. In 2014 (the last time it reported its 990 form to the IRS), which left just $172,555 for those it seeks to help. That same year, it spent $1.59 million on fundraising, salaries and other expenses.

Next: The other end of the spectrum

Some charities are almost perfect

PAWS Chicago charity

Your money goes to goodf use with PAWS Chicago. | Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

We’re not trying to dissuade you from giving to charity, we’re just reminding you that not ever charity is 100% honest. If you want to make sure you’re giving to a good cause, check out the (perfect score ) charities. It’s a long list that includes:

  • PAWS Chicago
  • Southern Environmental Law Center
  • Sponsors for Educational Opportunity
  • Equal Justice Initiative
  • National Pediatric Cancer Foundation

Next: Arm yourself with knowledge.

What to know when giving to charity

Businessman Hands Giving Cheque To Other Person In Office

Being a nonprofit doesn’t mean they’re legit. | AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images

First, know what you’re dealing with. It sounds fancy, but 501(c)(3) is just a term for an organization set up as a nonprofit interest. But just because a group is a nonprofit doesn’t mean all the money it makes goes to charity. The IRS has a lengthy and general list of tax-exempt causes, but a group purporting to represent such a cause doesn’t necessarily make it a charitable one.

Next: Check yourself before you wreck your pocketbook.

Go through a checklist

Money check and pen

Hold off before you write that check. | Timurpix/iStock/Getty Images

There are hundreds of charities out there asking for your money and as we have just seen, some aren’t quite as generous as they would have you believe. The Federal Trade Commission has a checklist you should follow anytime you are asked to donate:

  • Ask for detailed information, including the address and phone number.
  • Search the charity’s name online with the words scam, fraud, or complaint.
  • If you receive a phone call solicitation, ask the caller the exact name of the charity he or she is representing, how much of your donation goes to the charity, and how much goes to help the cause the charity represents.

Next: There are questionable charities, but then there are flat-out scams.

Know the tricks of the trade

If they’re pressuring you over the phone, beware. | Fizkes/iStock/Getty Images Plus

As Consumerist notes, a favorite trick used by scammers is using authentic-looking websites and charity names that are very similar to actual charities, so beware of that scam. If a telephone solicitor pressures you to donate, that should be a red flag. If you’ve never heard of the charity asking for your money or the cause it represents, it’s best to keep your wallet in your pocket.

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