MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- In the wake of tragedies like Hurricane Sandy and the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, relief organizations collect money to help. However, whenever there is a time of giving -- there is a time of scamming.
"These people were greedy, but on top of being greedy, quite frankly they were stupid too," Former District Attorney Rich White said.
White is describing the con men behind a charitable fraud scheme that involved 450,000 victims across the U.S. and a whopping $10 million.
"Did you know that police officers have to buy their own bullet proof vests and if they can`t afford them they just can`t get them?" White said.
That is one of the many false claims solicitors for a bogus charity would make to persuade potential donors to hand over money.
"Those lies and their greedy practice on their part is what opened the door in this instance to a constitutionally permitted prosecution," White said.
Officials say their strategy was to target the vulnerable.
"And convince them that the little they had -- the little they had to give was going to do something good and unfortunately the opposite was true," White said.
Postal inspectors say just pennies on the dollar actually went to any charity. The rest of the money went into the pockets of the telemarketers.
"The owners of the company were living large. They had large homes, recreational vehicles, boats, water skiis, and jet skiis -- things like that," U.S. Postal Inspector Dean Kowalefski said.
Some advice: Do not donate money over the phone, unless you are sure you know the charity. Instead, ask them to send you something in the mail.
"In this case and in many of the cases the unreputable telemarketers -- if you ask for something in writing - you`re not going to get anything," Kowalefski said.
"They can`t tolerate that practice. For them to be successful they need to get the pressure sales -- they sell someone right then or they are on to the next one," White said.
Some additional advice: postal inspectors say you should never donate cash. If you are writing a check, be sure to write it out for the name of the organization -- never an individual.