WSVN — They wanted to donate a car to a veteran in need of one. They found a charity, gave them the car, and now they are feeling duped by the charity. Did they get taken for a ride? It's why they called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
When Jim Bronson retired a few months ago, he was envisioning a life of leisure. His new boss had different plans.
Jim Bronson: "A lot of things, cut the grass, work for my wife. She works me pretty hard and the pay is not very good."
Obviously Jim and Marie are having fun and enjoying this phase in their lives, doing new things and getting rid of old things.
Jim Bronson: "It was a work car and I just used it for work and when I retired, I decided to get rid of it."
It was a white 1995 Taurus and rather than sell it, Marie went online to find a better option.
Jim Bronson: "We heard of this organization S-O-S and if you donate it, they give you a tax credit because it goes to a veteran that needs a car. So we decided to do it."
On their website S-O-S Cars says they also sell the cars and donate the money to help children of fallen servicemen and women or children of police officers killed in the line of duty. Jim then contacted them.
Jim Bronson: "They came to me, I drove the car up to the tow truck, they hooked on, we gave them the title. They gave us a piece of paper with the lot number."
S-O-S Cars is registered out of Michigan and the owner promised Jim they would quickly get their tax credit. After waiting a month, Jim and Marie took turns calling the company.
Jim Bronson: "They can send it through the email because the post office tried it three times. We never got a registered or nothing."
It didn't arrive in the mail, didn't arrive in an email and then after six months, S-O-S Cars quit answering their phone calls.
Jim Bronson: "I give up a nice ruing car in hopes to get a $750 tax credit and they never responded for it."
Well Howard, if you donate to what you think is a charity, what rights do you have?
Howard Finkelstein: "You have a right not to be defrauded. If a charity is not registered with the state of Florida, they may be committing a felony, but the problem for the Bronsons, if the charity is not legit, you don't get the tax deduction for your car."
We first contacted Florida's Department of Consumer Services which regulates charitable organizations. They told us S-O-S Cars is not registered to do business in Florida. We contacted Travis Peterson, who says he owns S-O-S Cars. He told us he did not know he had to register as a charity in Florida.
S-O-S Cars does not have tax exempt status but Peterson told us he is using the license of another charity and would send the Bronsons their tax credit from that company, but his troubles aren't over. After we notified the state what had happened, a department spokesperson told us we have opened an investigation into S-O-S Cars.
Howard Finkelstein: "Charities do wonderful work but there are many charities who are only in business for themselves. Before you open your wallet, spend a few minutes checking the charity out. It will help you and the people who need your generosity."
Jim Bronson: "I appreciate Help Me Howard getting my receipt for the donation."
The Bronsons got their tax credit and more importantly, hope their car helped a veteran.
Jim Bronson: "And I hope the veterans got a good car to drive around in. We appreciate their services."
Patrick Fraser: Now the owner of S-O-S Cars told us he didn't give a veteran the car. He sold it and will donate the money to a veterans family. Let's see what the states investigation of S-O-S Cars turns up."
A taxing situation troubling you? Wanna donate the problem to us? You don't have to give us credit for helping. It's what we are driven to do.
With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.
Visit FreshFromFlorida.com to find a charitable organization through Gift Giver's Guide at: https://csapp.800helpfla.com/cspublicapp/giftgiversquery/giftgiversquery.aspx
or call 1-800-HELP-FLA.