The Iowa Attorney General’s office has filed a lawsuit against a Florida-based professional fundraiser. Courtesy Health Watch, Inc. (CHW), headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, is a for profit company that raises money for various nonprofit clients including many cancer related charities.

Iowa Attorney General’s office spokesman Geoff Greenwood says CHW misled Iowans they called for donations by insinuating that the caller was directly associated with the charity. “We’re alleging that this company and its solicitors are not shooting straight with Iowans when they call for donations,” Greenwood said.

He also notes they company’s employees exaggerated how much of the donation would go to the charity. “Iowans may’ve thought their whole entire donation was going to the charity when, in fact, it may have been only 10-to-30 percent,” Greenwood said. CHW is also accused of telling would-be donors that making a donation would halt future solicitation calls, when donations actually triggered an increase in additional solicitations.

The lawsuit asks the court to prohibit CHW from making any more deceptive calls to Iowans and to require the company to pay civil penalties and attorney fees.

Tips for avoiding charity fraud and making the most of your donations (from Iowa Attorney General’s office)

* Ask questions. Be wary of claims that the caller is a charity worker or volunteer, that most of your donation goes to the cause, or that your donation will be used locally.

* Don’t let a sympathetic charity name fool you – some fundraisers exaggerate or fabricate their support for veterans or military families, law enforcement, fire fighters, victims of disease, and children’s causes.

* Ask phone solicitors to send written information. Be suspicious if they insist on a pledge before they’ll send you information. Check them out at the national Better Business Bureau “wise giving” site –

* Don’t give your credit card or checking account numbers over the phone to someone you don’t know.

* Give directly to a known charity of your choice.

* Bottom line: Keep giving generously, but give wisely. Giving to a known charity you’re confident about is often the best option. If you think you have been cheated by a fundraising scheme, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, Hoover Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. Call 515-281-5926, or 888-777-4590 toll free.