American Charity Center was the subject of Kim’s Catch in March 2014, when consumers were warned of their vehicle donation scheme. Under the assumed names American Charity Center and Caring Cars, Joseph Blanco duped donators into turning over the keys of their vehicle to support charities. Not only was American Charity Center unregistered to solicit charitable funds, they weren’t turning over the donations to the charities they claimed to be affiliated with.
The Company came under our radar back in 2011, when we received complaints regarding their not turning over donations. After looking into the Company’s offer and background, we contacted Mr. Blanco, informing him that they appeared to be acting as an unregistered commercial fundraiser. BCA alerted the Department of Justice Registry of Charitable Trust of the operation and they began sending notifications to American Charity Center regarding their registration requirements. Meanwhile, other complaints continued to come in to BCA. Finally, the Company obtained registration in May 2014; three months after BCA published the Kim’s Catch article warning donators of the Company.
Unfortunately, the deceptive practices did not end with registration. According to the “Refusal to Renew Registration” notice filed by the California Attorney General, American Charity Center continued to mislead donors with false and misleading solicitation claims, including: falsely stating they were authorized by or affiliated with certain charities; implying that American Charity Center and RVdonations.org were charities; misrepresenting their proprietary car donation program; failing to turn over donations. Some charities even sent cease and desist letters to American Charity Center to try and stop their deceptive actions.
Facing $313,000 in penalties for multiple violations, the Company agreed to a settlement with the Attorney General. Per the settlement, American Charity Center and Caring Cars has ceased all operations and are prohibited from all involvement in raising funds for charitable purposes. Joseph Blanco may not serve as an officer, director, or trustee for any entity that holds or solicits charitable funds without the Attorney General’s written authorization. In addition, all charitable assets raised, including the proceeds from sales of donated vehicles, were transferred to the appropriate charity.
If you are looking to help a charity or organization, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Always do your research. Visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website to search for a charity.
If a company solicits you for a donation, verify registration requirements by contacting your state Attorney General office.
Donate directly to the charity of your choice when possible.
Obtain a receipt from the charity.
If you are donating a vehicle, sign the title and reserve a copy for your records before you release the vehicle. Make sure the representative signs the release. Follow-up to ensure that the title is released from your name so you aren’t accountable for accumulating taxes, fees, or liabilities.
About Business Consumer Alliance
Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) is a non-profit company that started in 1928. The broad purpose of BCA is to promote business self-regulation. BCA's mission is achieved by assisting consumers in resolving complaints with businesses and using that complaint information, along with other relevant information such as customer reviews, to forecast business reliability. With community support, BCA can identify trustworthy and ethical businesses and warn the public to avoid unscrupulous businesses whose purpose is to defraud the marketplace. BCA also helps businesses promote themselves by providing services and tools to protect their business and reach out to their customers. BCA obtains its funding from member businesses who support the mission and purpose of the organization and who agree to abide by high standards of ethical business practices.