Maine’s Department of Professional and Financial Regulation Encourages Check on Unknown Charities, Especially Following Tragedies
Phony Charities Reported following Hurricane Sandy and School Shooting in Newtown
GARDINER – Citing reports of bogus charities springing up in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and the school shooting in Connecticut, Commissioner Anne Head from the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation is encouraging Maine residents to check the legitimacy of unknown charities, particularly those that seem to quickly appear following a tragedy. She urges potential donors to always research charitable organizations before making a donation. A quick check with the Department will provide essential information, such as whether the charity is authorized to raise money in Maine and whether disciplinary action has ever been taken against the organization.
Under Maine law, charitable entities and those who solicit money for charities, are required to become licensed with the Department’s Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation before soliciting contributions. The agency collects information about charitable activity in Maine and makes it available to the public. The Office also receives, and acts upon, complaints related to charitable solicitation.
“Charitable solicitation scams aren’t new, but those attempting to take advantage of people’s generosity in the aftermath of natural disasters and other tragedies seem especially reprehensible,” Commissioner Head commented. “Because the victims of scams might never know they’ve been taken advantage of, or may be reluctant to report their loss of money, it’s important for government agencies to be proactive and alert the public about the very real potential for fraud.”
Commissioner Head advises individuals to ask questions and seek printed information about unknown charities if solicited for a donation; 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, 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.
Additionally, the website includes a News Alert with further guidance for avoiding scams. Information and other resources are also available from the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov/charityfraud/).
The Department of Professional and Financial Regulation protects the citizens of Maine through the regulation of State-chartered financial institutions, the insurance industry, grantors of consumer credit, the securities industry, and numerous professions and occupations providing services to the public. In order to encourage the development of sound ethical businesses which serve the needs of Maine citizens, the Department fosters a healthy business environment through competent, impartial and efficient regulation.