Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine offered charitable giving tips.
“We know many Ohioans will give generously, and we encourage them to do so,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We also want to help ensure that their charitable contributions end up in the right hands. Unfortunately, some con artists collect donations and put them in their own pockets. Awareness and prevention are critical.”
Charities throughout the country use the last month of the year to seek support from donors. At the same time, scammers also compete for these contributions. Con artists may pose as reputable charity representatives and collect donations by phone, online, or outside stores. They claim to support a charitable cause, but ultimately they keep the money for themselves.
To detect and avoid potential charity scams, donors should:
Develop a giving plan. Determine which charities you want to support. Respond to unexpected or unwanted requests by explaining that you already have a giving plan. Invite other groups to provide you with written information so you can evaluate their requests.
Research charities. Find out if an organization is registered with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, verify its tax-exempt status with the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Select Check, and gather data from organizations such as the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Watch, and Charity Navigator. View the organization’s IRS Form 990 on Guidestar. Review program descriptions, expenses, compensation levels, and other details. Conduct a basic internet search to review a group’s accomplishments or questionable activity.
Ask how your donation will be used. Keep in mind that some charitable giving requests come from professional solicitors who are paid to collect donations. Solicitors should identify themselves, and if you ask, tell you what percentage of your donation will go to the charity. Also contact charities directly to find out how they use donations. Get information in writing. Compare a charity’s materials with information you gather from other sources.
Watch for red flags. Be wary of high-pressure tactics, requests for checks made out to an individual (instead of a charity), and people who are unable or unwilling to answer questions about their organization. Don’t provide your credit card number or other personal information to callers who contact you unexpectedly.
To help protect businesses and their customers from charity donation scams, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office provides “A Charity Guide for Businesses,” which encourages businesses to evaluate charitable solicitation requests, such as requests to set up a donation table outside a store. The guide includes a sample approval form businesses can use in their vetting process.
Those who suspect a charity scam or questionable fundraising activities should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515. The Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section provides oversight to make sure donations are not misappropriated and that charitable proceeds are used for charitable purposes.