FTC Tells Consumers Ways to Give Wisely

For Your Information

As many people generously open their hearts and wallets to help those affected by the recent tornadoes in the Southeast, the Federal Trade Commission is urging consumers to be cautious of potential charity scams. Scam artists may take advantage of the tragedy by creating bogus fundraising operations. The FTC offers these tips to help you make the most of your charitable donations:

  • Donate to recognized charities with a history. Charities that spring up overnight in connection with a natural disaster or news story may disappear just as quickly with your donation. Even if the charity is well-meaning, it may lack the infrastructure to provide much assistance. Be wary of charities with names that sound like familiar organizations. Some phony charities use names that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate groups.
  • If you can, give directly to the charity, not to paid solicitors who contact you on the charity’s behalf. Some charities hire professional fundraisers who then keep a portion of the money they collect. That leaves less money for charitable work.
  • Do not give out personal or financial information – including your Social Security number – to anyone who solicits from you. Scam artists use this information to commit fraud against you.
  • Check out charities before you donate. Contact the Better Business Bureaus’s Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org.
  • Do not give or send cash. For security and tax-record purposes, contribute by check or credit card. Write the official name of the charity on your check.
  • Ask for identification if you are approached in person. Many states require paid fundraisers to identify themselves as such and to name the charity for which they are soliciting.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, click http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.shtm or call 1-877-382-4357. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. For free information on a variety of consumer topics, click http://ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm.

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