While the holiday season is typically a time for giving, it is seen less charitably by criminals engaged in consumer scams. Here are few helpful tips to avoid becoming a victim to charity and fundraising fraud:
(1) Never give on impulse or give into high-pressure requests for contributions or donations. Always review all written information before making a donation. If a solicitor refuses to provide written information, refuse to donate. Don’t be afraid to ask if the person is a volunteer or a paid fundraiser.
(2) Make sure you know how your donation will be distributed and know how much of your donation will actually go to the charity itself (versus administrative costs). Legitimate charities will not pressure you for an immediate donation and are happy to provide information about their charity for you to review.
(3) Avoid giving cash and always make your check payable to the charity, never an individual. Be sure you know the name, address and telephone number of the charity. Be wary of names closely associated with the name of a well-known charity, using familiar words such as United, American or National.
(4) Never give out personal information, such as your birth date, Social Security number, credit card number, checking account number or any financial information, to a solicitor either by telephone, mail or at your door.
(5) Never give a donation to a charity that (a) offers to take your donation directly from your account, such as an automatic debit; (b) encourages you to send a donation by courier/overnight express mail; or (c) asks you to wire your donation. Donate directly to the organization either in person (at an event sponsored by the charity) or through the U.S. Postal Service.
(6) When donating items through charitable bins, commonly located in parking lots, read the disclosure stickers posted on the bins to determine the for-profit and non-profit bins. Non-profit companies will provide a majority of their proceeds to charities. For-profit companies often sell their donated items overseas and send a small percentage of their proceeds to charities. If you are in doubt, check online for charities you have not heard about or donate to local charities or thrift stores that are familiar to you.
(7) Know the difference between "tax deductible" and "tax exempt." Tax deductible means you can deduct your donation on your federal income tax return. Tax exempt means the charity does not have to pay taxes. Even if a charity is tax exempt, your donation may not be tax deductible. If you would like a tax deduction, ask the charity for a receipt stating that your donation is tax deductible. For more information, see http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt027.shtm and www.give.org/tips/tax.asp or call 877.382.4357 for a brochure.
Thank you again for your generosity and making a difference. For more information about giving to charities and fundraisers, contact the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/charityfraud or 877.382.4357.
For detailed tips on Arizona laws regulating charities and donations and if you have questions or suspicions about a charity or a fundraiser, before donating, please visit: http://www.azag.gov/consumer/charitable.html.
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