Minnesota Man says he paid out thousands of dollars to misleading charity mailers

Published: May. 4, 2017 at 6:41 PM CDT
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An 88-year old Minnesota man says he's been donating thousands of dollars to multiple charities after they told him he will be receiving money. The man's family called our Whistleblower Hotline wanting to warn others about these mailings that could target your older family members.

"Why are you donating to them?" asked reporter Ashley Bishop.

"Well they are offering a jackpot," said Donald Lynch of Detroit Lakes.

Valley News Live found out it's not a scam per se, instead experts say they are misleading solicitations

"Be prepared to pay $10,000 to Donald Lynch as early as March 20th," Lynch read from one of the hundreds of mailers he's received.

"You haven't seen $10,000 dollars?" asked Bishop.

Lynch shook his head no and says he started donating money about two years ago to the North Shore Animal League of America.

"I've always had a soft spot for humane societies," said Lynch.

But then he started getting hundreds of mailings from all kinds of charities. Most of them now sitting in plastic bags on his floor.

"'I've spent a lot of money," said Lynch.

"How much have you spent?" asked Bishop.

"Well, I am going to take a guess at least $18,000." Lynch stated.

Many of the mailings say he can enter to win thousands of dollars or that he's been selected to win. On the back of many of the mailers is fine print.

"Deliver the $10,000 dollar prize to Mr. Donald Lynch by April 3rd," Lynch read off another mailer.

Valley News Live wanted to learn more about the North Shore Animal League and other charities Lynch got letters from.

The North Shore Animal League website had a Sweepstakes FAQ section, stating they are running an All Cash Sweepstakes.

It says "Prize winners will be randomly selected by independent judges, whose decisions are final" and you have a 1 in 5 million chance of winning.

While this is legal, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) says people should investigate who you're donating too.

"You always want to do your research, make sure the charity is registered in the state they are soliciting funds in," said BBB spokesperson, Dan Hendrickson.

Valley News Live used the website Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities. We looked into a few others Lynch got mailers for like "Kids Wish Network," "National Heart Council" and "Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation Inc." Each of them scored one star or listed a concern advisory.

"You really want to make sure it is a well run charity and your donation is going to help people and not pushed toward administrative costs or market costs," said Hendrickson.

On the North Shore Animal League website it says the charity "rents or exchanges your name with other organizations" hence how Lynch started getting all the other solicitations.

"I think I do my fair share of donations without getting into this mess," said Lynch.

Valley News Live checked into the North Shore Animal League. It is a legit charity. They say they found that sweepstakes are a great way to get peoples attention and learn about their mission.

If you are looking for website to check out charities or file a complaint, visit Give.org and Charity Navigator. We've put them in the links of this story.