While we may be heading into cooler weather and the beginning of the Holidays, it is also time for an increase in deceptive “charity” scams.
Be prepared, be aware!
“Charity scammers use deception to steal money from people who believe they are donating to legitimate causes. They siphon money away from those in need and use it to line their own pockets. Scam artists often play on donors’ sympathy and take advantage of their generosity.
Here are a few tips for choosing a worthy charity and giving wisely.
- Ask questions, such as:
- “Who is the fundraiser and who will benefit from the donation?”;
- “How much of the contribution goes to the charity mentioned in the request”; and
- “How much of the donation goes toward administrative and fundraising expenses?”
- Check if the charitable organization is registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services by visiting FloridaConsumerHelp.com.
- Never give cash. Contribute by check and make it out to the organization.
- If you decide to donate online, look for indicators that the website is secure, such as a web address that begins with “https:” (the “s” stands for secure).
- Be aware that many telephone appeals for funds are made by paid solicitors, not volunteers. The solicitors often work for a for-profit firm hired by the charitable organization. Telemarketing is expensive and may entail substantial fundraising costs.
- Some organizations have 900 phone numbers. When you call the number, the cost of the call is automatically billed to your phone. Before dialing, make sure you wish to donate the price of the call to that cause.
- Always obtain and save a printed copy of your donation or a receipt showing the amount of the contribution.
- Not all organizations soliciting in the name of benevolence are true charities eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. If this is important to you, ask about the organization’s federal and state eligibility for receiving tax-deductible donations. Typically, such donations fall under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).
To file a complaint about a charity, use the FDACS on-line form or call 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352).”