The holiday season is synonymous with giving. But, it’s also a peak period for charity scams.
Today, in these tough economic times, more people need some help – and charities are counting more than ever on your support. According to Giving USA 2011, the Annual Report on Philanthropy, charitable giving increased in 2010 by nearly 4 percent, bringing total donations to more than $290 billion. And, the majority of that giving (73%) came from individuals.
As the calls and emails asking for your help come in fast and furiously, take a moment to be absolutely sure you are donating to a legitimate organization before you part with your hard-earned dollars. Keep in mind: Scammers often use sound-alike names of well-known and respected charities. And, they may employ telephone technology that makes your caller ID screen display the name of a real charity, or purchase e-mail and home mailing lists to send convincing yet phony pitches for donations.
Tips for Charitable Giving
The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation offers some tips to help you figure out what’s legit:
1. Never donate to a charity that you know nothing about, especially those related to a news story or natural disaster that materialize overnight.
2. Don’t feel pressured into giving on the spot or allowing someone to come to your house to pick up the contribution.
3. Hang up the telephone on aggressive and harassing solicitors.
4. Request written information about the charity, its mission, programs and finances, how your donation will be used, and proof that your contribution is tax deductible.
5. Do not reveal your personal or financial information, including your Social Security number or credit card and bank account numbers to anyone who solicits a contribution from you.
6. Always write a check payable to the charity, not the individual soliciting you, so that you have a record of your donations.
7. Ask who will benefit from your contribution.
8. Don’t be fooled by a convincing name or one that sounds like the name of a well-known charity.
9. Don’t make assumptions when you hear words like “police” or “firefighter” in an organization’s name. Although the organization may claim to have local ties, it doesn’t mean contributions will be used locally.
10. Be aware of statements like, “every penny will go to the charity.” All charities have expenses, so check carefully and know where your money goes.
Check Out Your Charity
First, check to see that the charity is registered with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.
Then, review charity rating sites:
To file a complaint, contact:
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