Feds and state crack down on fraudulent veteran charities, and help find the good ones

SALT LAKE CITY -- The non-profit watchdog Charity Navigator says Americans donate more than $2.5 billion annually to military related charities, and today regulators around the country announced a new initiative aimed at cracking down on frauds among them.

The FTC pointed specifically to a group called Help the Vets and their founder Neil Paulson.

"Help the Vets collected more than $20 million, by claiming the donations would help veterans," said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. The FTC says Paulson pocketed much of the money and used most of the rest to pay fundraisers to keep the cash flowing.

In Utah, the Division of Consumer Protection Director Daniel O'Bannon says he doesn't want to discourage donations to worthy causes. He says he just wants to help them research the non-profits that get their help.

"We don't want people to give to charities that sound legitimate but aren't legitimate," O'Bannon said.

The Division of Consumer Protection registers all non-profits that can legally accept donations in Utah.

If you go to their website and search for the organization's name, you can see if they are registered. Click on the organization's name, and you'll also see what percentage of your money actually goes to the services the charity supports.