Charitable solicitation scams often increase in November and December, when holiday themed charity drives are bountiful. Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon, and Western Washington warns consumers to be aware of 3 types of charitable solicitation shams:
- The representative is with a fictitious charity. Many scammers mimic legitimate organizations, choosing names with slight variations to sound more credible. This fly-by-night scam relies on donors who don't research the organization before making a contribution.
- The schemer claims to be with a well-known organization, but has no affiliation. The con operates in hopes that potential contributors don't contact the organization to verify that they are a registered worker or volunteer.
- The solicitor is a verifiable employee of the organization, but pockets the money instead of applying it to the cause. This unethical person preys on inexperienced givers and avoids offering a donation receipt or confirmation code.
Your BBB offers a Charity Review Program, Charity Seal Program and the following tips to assist potential donors in avoiding fictitious solicitations and finding reliable local charities:
Contribute carefully. When solicited by an individual claiming to be from a charitable organization, look for indicators that it’s not a legitimate source: the organization's name or logo seems familiar, but is slightly altered; advertisements lack full contact information, such as the organization's name, address and phone number; contact information isn't verifiable; mailings look like bills or invoices; or the organization sends unordered merchandise and demands payment. These are all warning signs to report to your BBB.
Charitable donations are voluntary. Legitimate charitable organizations should never pressure donors to make an immediate contribution. Don't trust a soliciting charity that sends invoices demanding past due payments.
Give to organizations you know and trust. Don't donate impulsively. If interested, ask them to return or call back later after you confirm the validity of the organization and that the representative is a registered worker or volunteer.
Make sure the charity is properly registered. If it's a local charity, verify that they are properly registered with the Alaska Department of Law. Also, research the company on a search engine.
Check out the charity with BBB before making a donation. BBB's 20 Standards for Charity Accountability cover how an organization is governed, ways it spends money, truthfulness of its representations, and its willingness to disclose basic information to the public. Get free Charity Reports at www.bbb.org/charity.
Don't hand over payment information if you are unsure. To make sure it goes to the correct source, consider contacting the organization or charity directly to make a donation. Always inquire about what percentage of the donation will go to the cause or related charitable activities.
Avoid charities that only accept cash as payment. It is difficult to recover cash if the source turns out to be fraudulent. If writing a check, address it payable to the charity and not the soliciting individual.
Request a receipt. Make sure to obtain a tax receipt or confirmation code of the donation. Steer clear of those not willing to provide one.
Contributions may be tax deductible. In most cases, contributions to 501(c)3 charitable organizations will be tax deductible. Be aware that "tax exempt" simply means that the organization does not pay taxes. Contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for more information on tax deductible status.
Keep a record of volunteer contributions. Retain copies of receipts, check stubs, and bank statements when accounting expenses during tax season. Although time and efforts will not be reimbursed, transportation costs and other out-of-pocket expenses associated with volunteer service may be tax deductible.
About BBB Foundation:
BBB Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to educating consumers on a variety of marketplace issues. BBB Foundation is an affiliate of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon & Western Washington.