WOODBURY - The Federal Trade Commission and attorney generals from all 50 states filed a lawsuit Tuesday against four alleged fraudulent cancer charities.
Federal investigators have called the case one of the largest frauds ever. According to the FTC, the four charities conned donors across the country out of $187 million, with almost no money spent to help actual cancer patients.
The charities named in the suit are the Cancer Fund of America, Children's Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services and the Breast Cancer Society, all of which are run by members of one extended family, officials say.
The defendants are accused of hiring telemarketers to pressure people into making donations over the phone.
Hillary Rutter is with Adelphi's Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program. She says bogus charities hurt legitimate support programs by diverting funds away from cancer patients.
"Our program provides a lot of information... counseling and education that's really needed and it helps women so they don't have to go through a diagnosis alone," Rutter says. "We work very hard to bring in funding so we can provide our services, which are all free, so some of these scammers really make it harder for us to raise funds."
Rutter also says that legitimate charities do not use telemarketers to raise funds. If someone is approached for a donation, it is advised to research the charity by going on their website to find out where the money will go.
The Attorney General's Office can also confirm if a suspicious charity is registered.