In the wake of the devastating Tornado that hit suburban Oklahoma City on Monday, the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, reminds consumers that scams often follow disasters. If you’re asked to make a charitable donation to help people in disaster-affected areas, before you give, be sure your donations are going to a reputable organization that will use the money as promised.
Unfortunately, legitimate charities face competition from scammers who either collect for a charity that doesn’t exist or aren’t honest about how their “charity” will use the money you give. Like legitimate charities, they might appeal for donations in person, by phone or mail, by e-mail, on websites, or on social networking sites. For more on the questions to ask and for a list of groups that can help you research a charity, go to Charity Scams.
If you’re asked to make a charitable donation to support victims of the recent tornado, remember:
- Donate to charities you know and trust. Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events, like a natural disaster.
- Ask if a caller is a paid fundraiser, who they work for, and what percentage of your donation goes to the charity and to the fundraiser. If you don’t get a clear answer — or if you don’t like the answer you get — consider donating to a different organization.
- Don’t give out personal or financial information — including your credit card or bank account number — unless you know the charity is reputable.
- Never send cash: you can’t be sure the organization will receive your donation, and you won’t have a record for tax purposes.
- Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
- Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the NationalAssociation of State Charity Officials.
From Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation:
[Information about charities can be obtained through the Department’s website (www.maine.gov/pfr), specifically at www.maine.gov/pfr/professionallicensing/professions/charitable. Links allow for the search of licensed charitable organizations, as well as disciplinary actions. Questions and complaints can also be made by calling the Charitable Solicitations Program at 207-624-8525.]
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers 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, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.