MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Four East Tennessee charities were accused of scamming people out of nearly $200 million dollars, and they all deal with cancer.
The Tennessee Secretary of State said 85% or more of every donation was spent on family members and friends including lavish vacations, and there are victims in all 50 states.
The feds said between 2008-2012, the four charities collected $187 million with less than 3% going to patients.
The news was upsetting to people who supported the causes that were supposed to help save lives.
Now, charities in the Mid-South and the Better Business Bureau said they hoped this doesn't impact donations for legitimate organizations.
"It's scary, because Memphis is the most giving city in the country. We need people in Memphis to keep giving," said Elaine Hare with Susan G Komen Memphis-Midsouth.
She's upset after hearing about the scam.
"We don't want charities to be all painted with the same broad brush," she said. "Find out who is this charity, where are they giving their money to, will they tell you and will they share it."
Randy Hutchinson with the BBB said there's more scam artists out there than you think.
He said to get to know the charity, do some digging and ask around.
"I'm sure there were people in the mid-south who probably gave to these particular charities," he said. "We have a national charity arm who has a report on national charities, and no of these passed muster."
The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance (BBB WGA) released its tips to help the public avoid questionable charities.
The BBB WGA gave the following tips for donors:
- Be on alert when called over the telephone
While telephone calls could work wonders for fundraising, you should never feel pressured to make an immediate decision or contribution.
- Seek out additional facts and sources.
If you are interested in the charity, do your homework!
Research the organization's website and search for reviews online.
- Watch out for excessive fund raising expenses
According to the news release, while most charities have reasonable fund raising expenses (less than 35% of total contributions received in the past year), if a telephone appeal campaign is not managed well, it can result in excessive fundraising expenses where the charity might receive less than 20% or 10% collected funds.
- Seek expert opinions
For more information on an organization, visit Give.org. Charities that meet the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability will be called BBB Accredited Charities.
Additional reviews can also be found at bbb.org.