The Federal Trade Commission urges consumers to be cautious of potential charity scams in connection with the damage caused by hurricanes Ike and Gustav along the Gulf Coast and in the Midwest.
Scam artists might take advantage of this situation by creating bogus fund-raising operations. The FTC has issued a Consumer Alert, the “FTC Charity Checklist,” which lists precautions consumers should take when donating to charities. The alert, available at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt114.shtm, advises consumers to be wary of appeals that tug at your heart strings, especially pleas involving current events. If you are asked to contribute to a charity, the FTC recommends that you:
- Ask for the name of the charity if the telemarketer does not provide it promptly;
- Ask what percentage of your donation will support the cause described in the solicitation;
- Call the charity to find out if it’s aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name;
- Do not provide any credit card or bank information until you have reviewed all information from the charity and made the decision to donate;
- Ask for a receipt showing the amount of the contribution and stating that it is tax deductible; and
- Avoid cash gifts. For security and tax record purposes, it’s best to pay by check – made payable to the beneficiary, not the solicitor.
To order copies of this or other FTC Consumer Alerts, visit http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/contact.shtm#publications. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on consumer issues, visit http://www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available for more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.