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.
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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