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Which charities should you donate to?

Ken Kleinlein

Ken Klein­lein

Ken Klein­lein
Crime Scene

ENGLEWOOD, Fla. – Every year, Amer­i­cans give bil­lions to char­i­ties. You prob­a­bly receive numer­ous requests for finan­cial assis­tance from legit­i­mate char­i­ta­ble orga­ni­za­tions that pro­vide assis­tance to those in need.

How­ever, mixed in with those law­ful requests are some that attempt to get you to donate to fraud­u­lent orga­ni­za­tions using mis­in­for­ma­tion and ille­gal methods.

There are many cat­e­gories of bogus char­i­ties, but they all fall under the head­ing of an old con game com­monly known as “The Bite.” Give some­one a hard luck story and then put the bite on them to get cash or goods by means of trick, arti­fice or device. Folks are very sus­cep­ti­ble to this type of crime because we have been con­di­tioned by par­ents, teach­ers, clergy, sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers, and even the gov­ern­ment to be a car­ing per­son and extend a help­ing hand to those in need.

Should you receive a com­mu­ni­ca­tion you feel may be a ques­tion­able char­ity, check it out at www.give.org or www.charitynavigator.org.

Com­mis­sioner Adam Put­nam released a Florida Con­sumer Newslet­ter on how to iden­tify bogus charities.

Many char­i­ta­ble orga­ni­za­tions use your dona­tions wisely; how­ever, some may mis­rep­re­sent their fundrais­ing inten­tions or solicit for phony causes.

Scam­mers take advan­tage of peo­ple by pre­tend­ing to be a legit­i­mate char­ity. Bogus char­i­ties will exploit a recent nat­ural dis­as­ter or tragedy promis­ing to use the dona­tions to aid vic­tims. It is impor­tant not to judge a char­ity solely on its name. Many orga­ni­za­tions may use names sim­i­lar to well-known char­i­ties and organizations.

Check out a Char­ity before Donati0ns: Ask the char­ity why it is request­ing dona­tions and what pur­pose will be served. Florida law gives prospec­tive donors the right to request and receive a copy of a charity’s finan­cial report before donat­ing. You can also visit our online Gift Givers’ Guide at 800helpfla.com to view a charity’s finan­cial infor­ma­tion and cur­rent reg­is­tra­tion sta­tus. Call 800-HELP-FLA (435−7352). Be aware that many tele­phone appeals for funds are made by paid solic­i­tors. Solic­i­tors often work at a for-profit firm hired by orga­ni­za­tions. Tele­mar­ket­ing is expen­sive and entails sub­stan­tial fundrais­ing costs. Ask what por­tion of your dona­tion will be retained by the charity.

Avoid High Pres­sure Tac­tics: Some solic­i­tors use high-pressure tac­tics and may offer to send a “run­ner” to pick up your money imme­di­ately. Don’t feel forced to make a quick deci­sion with­out get­ting all the infor­ma­tion that you need. Rep­utable char­i­ties and orga­ni­za­tions are just as happy to receive your dona­tion tomor­row as today. If you make a dona­tion, never send cash. Pay by check made payable to the char­ity itself, not to the solic­i­tor. If you decide to make a dona­tion online, look for indi­ca­tors that the site is secure, such as a URL that begins with “https:” (the “s” stands for secure).

Keep Good Records: Obtain and save a printed copy of your dona­tion or a receipt show­ing the amount of the con­tri­bu­tion. Not all orga­ni­za­tions solic­it­ing in the name of benev­o­lence are true char­i­ties eli­gi­ble to receive tax-deductible con­tri­bu­tions. Ask about the organization’s fed­eral and state eli­gi­bil­ity for receiv­ing tax-deductible dona­tions. Typ­i­cally, such dona­tions fall under Inter­nal Rev­enue Code sec­tion 501©(3).

All char­i­ties solic­it­ing within the state of Florida (exclud­ing reli­gious, edu­ca­tional, polit­i­cal and gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies) are required to reg­is­ter and file finan­cial infor­ma­tion with the Florida Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Con­sumer Ser­vices. If a pro­fes­sional solic­i­tor is request­ing a dona­tion on behalf of a char­ity, the solic­i­tor must also be reg­is­tered with the depart­ment and pro­vide you with their reg­is­tra­tion num­ber. Visit our online Gift Givers’ Guide at 800helpfla.com to view a charity’s finan­cial infor­ma­tion and cur­rent reg­is­tra­tion sta­tus, or call 800-HELP-FLA (435−7352).

For addi­tional infor­ma­tion, to ver­ify a charity’s reg­is­tra­tion or finan­cial sta­tus, or to file a com­plaint, con­tact the depart­ment at 800-HELP-FLA (435−7352), 800-FL-AYUDA (352−9832) en Espa­Zol, or visit 800helpfla.com.

Take care, be care­ful, and I’ll see you at the next Crime Scene.
God bless and pro­tect our mil­i­tary, law enforce­ment, fire fight­ers, and EMT’s.

Happy Birth­day Kris and Ashley!

Ken Klein­lein is a for­mer NYPD spe­cial frauds detec­tive coor­di­nat­ing with fed­eral, state, and local law enforce­ment, and accred­ited secu­rity firms, on mat­ters of crime pre­ven­tion and pub­lic information.

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