How to spot a phony cancer charity

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- For the past 15 years, Troy Thee has dedicated his life to one cause.

"We are going to find a cure for cancer,” said Thee, director of estate and asset services for the American Cancer Society. “We are going to eliminate cancer as a major health problem."

Thee says 100 percent of donations come from the public and go toward programs to help find a cure.

"I always tell people, 'Please do research on those organizations and make sure that their values are your values,’" he said.

Thee says that kind of research could have made a difference in a national lawsuit filed against four phony charities that claimed to fight cancer but allegedly spent $186 million in donations on trips, cruises, high salaries and other luxuries.

Those charities are Cancer Fund of America, Children`s Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, and the Breast Cancer Society.

All 50 states, including North Carolina are involved in the lawsuit.

"How much of that money could have been used towards finding a cure for cancer?" Thee asked.

Kevin Hinterberger from the Better Business Bureau says asking questions is the best way to avoid becoming a victim.

"It's your money, at the end of the day, and you want it to go to the place where it's going to do the most good," he said.

Hinterberger says donors should avoid emails, texts, and requests for donations through social media.

He says before writing a check, donors should ask how much of their donation will go towards the program. He says 65 to 70 percent is a good range.

If they can't answer those questions, Hinterberger says there's only one choice to make.

"If they're deceptive or don't want to answer those kinds of questions, they start using high-pressure sales tactics, hang the phone up," he said.

The Better Business Bureau also recommends finding out if a charity has a local branch.

If so, donations can be taken directly to them.

Experts also suggest using a credit card to make a donation so if a charity is a fake, donors may be able to get their money back.