California's attorney general joined regulators in the federal government and other states Thursday in targeting charities they said falsely promise to aid veterans and active members of the military.
The California effort includes requiring more than 500 veterans' charities to file delinquent reports with the state's Registry of Charitable Trusts and suspending them if they don't comply within 30 days.
More than half the veterans-oriented charities on the registry haven't kept current with their reports or annual registration fees, which Attorney General Xavier Becerra said should be a warning sign to potential donors.
The Federal Trade Commission and state regulators across the nation also are starting an education campaign, including a 90-second video in English and Spanish, to help donors tell the difference between legitimate charities and those that siphon off money for other purposes.
Becerra said he's taken 10 enforcement actions against charities he said falsely claimed to assist veterans.
Many have "very appealing sounding names ... so people give," he said.
For instance, Becerra said, one Florida-based group, Help the Vets, used five sympathetic sounding names to solicit $20 million over four years before it was shut down by regulators in six states and the federal government. Virtually none of the money went to help veterans, he said.
Other targeted organizations similarly spent a fraction of the funds they raised on charitable programs, he said.