Beware of Charity Scams
With disasters such as Katrina, Pulse Night Club, and the war in Syria tugging at your heartstrings – it is important to protect your finances from charity scams.
Moreover, it is especially important during times of immediate and great need to review some cold, hard facts.
Generally, in such disaster scenarios donating items such as clothing or food to the cause can create logistical nightmares for charities trying to get help to those in need as quickly as possible. The wisest and most cost effective donation you can give at times like these are your dimes and dollars. While you may wish you could do more, many of us may be limited by our own financial situations and budgets. That’s why it is all the more important to take the time to find a charity you can trust to make the most of every dollar you can give and not allow unscrupulous charities or scammers to take advantage of your goodwill.
Here’s a simple checklist to remember:
1. Avoid telemarketers. With the establishment of the National Do-Not-Call list Americans can avoid telemarketers attempting to sell to you. However, this legislation does not cover politicians or nonprofit organizations seeking donations. Be aware that some charities do make use of telemarketers and know you have every right to ask questions and receive answers when you are asked to make a donation. Your greatest concern should be how much of your donation would be going to the charitable organization and if you ask, by law, they must tell you. (Charities are charged varying amounts that may leave anywhere from 80 to 10 cents of each dollar raised through these companies actually going to charity.) As always, never give out credit card, bank account, or other personal information over the phone when you have not initiated the phone call. Ask to receive information in writing. Remember that you may end the phone call at any time, with no explanation. A reputable charity does not want you to be pressured into giving. Any respectable charity will graciously take ‘no’ for an answer.
2. Avoid charities that won’t share information about their programs. Again reputable charities will answer you questions clearly and completely. They will also be willing to send you information about themselves, the work that they do, and the financial breakdowns of all donations, in writing.
3. Trust your instincts. With the current crisis many new charities will probably spring up – some legitimate – others less so. If you have doubts about a charity or its legitimacy – do not donate to it.
4. Stand your ground. If you decide to donate and would like your donation to be used in a certain manner, such as directly to those in need, rather than for operating expenses or set aside for a future emergency, say so. If the charity you have chosen refuses to agree – don’t donate. Find another charity that will honor your wishes.
5. Follow up. Don’t be afraid to follow up later. You are entitled to know how your gift was used. Plus, by following up you can also ask if additional support is needed to complete recovery efforts, as initial outpourings of help often lessen over time.
Finally, your best bet is to locate an established charity that already has an infrastructure in place to get help to those in need as soon as possible. There are many organizations, local and national news programs, for example, that have already prepared listings of legitimate charities and the type of help they are offering to those in need that you can review online to help in your decision making. So if you’d like to help those in need, go ahead and give. Just take the few minutes necessary to make sure your charitable contributions count.