Charitable Scams Can be More Prevalent This Time of Year
GARDINER – As many Maine families consider holiday season and end of year charitable contributions, Governor Paul R. LePage and Commissioner Anne Head from the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation are encouraging Maine residents to check the legitimacy of unknown charities. Potential donors are urged to always research charitable organizations before making a donation. A quick check with the Department can provide information to help in determining whether a charity is legitimate or a scam.
“Maine people are well known for lending a hand to others and for supporting charities,” Governor LePage said. “We saw that earlier this week with the successful conclusion of the Maine State Employees Combined Charitable, which has raised nearly $270,000 to help those in need. We always encourage charitable giving and want to assist donors in directing their support to legitimate charities.”
Charitable organizations are required to be licensed with the Department’s Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation, which collects information about charitable activity in Maine and makes it available to the public.
“Charitable solicitation scams aren’t new, but they sometimes increase during the holiday season, at the end of the year, and in the aftermath of tragedies,” Commissioner Head said. “It’s important for the public to know that guidance and resources are available to assist people in making sure their contributions are going to real charities.”
Commissioner Head advises individuals to ask questions and seek printed information about unknown charities; to confirm their legitimacy with regulators; to never send cash or wire money when requested to do so; to always keep receipts of donations; and to report concerns or complaints about questionable solicitations with the Department and law enforcement.
Information about charities can be obtained through the Department’s website (www.maine.gov/pfr), specifically atwww.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.
Additional tips and advice accompany this news release and can also be obtained from the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov/charityfraud/).
The Department of Professional and Financial Regulation protects the citizens of Maine and supports the economy through the oversight of State-chartered financial institutions, the insurance industry, grantors of consumer credit, the securities industry, and numerous professions providing services to the public. More information is available at www.maine.gov/pfr.
Tips and Advice When Considering Charitable Giving
- Always research unknown charities before contributing. And whether the charity is new or well established, you may wish to know what percentage of your contribution is spent on fundraising, employee compensation, or expenses which do not directly support the charity’s stated purpose.
- Not all organizations with names that sound like charities are actually charities. Some organizations select names that are similar to those of well-known charities.
- Be cautious when contacted by telephone for a contribution. Ask that the request be put in writing. You may also want to ask if the caller is a paid solicitor or a volunteer for the charity.
- Never give your bank account information or credit/debit card numbers to a caller. And be wary if the person soliciting the contribution is willing to have someone rush to your home or business to meet with you and pick up a contribution.
- If you wish to receive a tax deduction, make sure the organization has a tax deductible status with the Internal Revenue Service. “Tax exempt,” “non-profit,” and “tax deductible” mean different things. Only “tax deductible” means contributions are deductible on your income tax return. Visit the IRS website (www.irs.gov/charities) for more information.
- Be wary of organizations which list only post office boxes or mail drop suite numbers as their address. You may wish to inquire about the charity’s location.