Tricounty News

Avoid charity fraud

The desire to help others is an admirable trait and one that, unfortunately, scam artists are quick to take advantage of. The past several years have seen several natural disasters in the news. Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and the like have all grabbed headlines, with the human suffering they've caused played out in vivid detail on the evening news. One's first instinct when solicited for help might be to open up that purse or wallet and give quickly and generously. But governmental organizations such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warn that this might not always be the best approach. Helping is always a great idea, but there are ways to ensure that the gift you give reaches its intended recipients.

In the wake of scams that popped up following the Myanmar cyclone and the powerful earthquake in China, the FTC issued its "FTC Charity Checklist," a handy document to refer to, no matter what charity you're thinking of supporting. One of their first tips is to be weary of pleas that tug at your heartstrings or play up current events. Investigating the charity is central to the FTC's tips, and it will help your donation find the intended target. Key questions to ask include the specific name of the charity and the percentage of your donation that goes toward administrative expenses. You might be surprised to find out how little of your donation benefits those who need it the most. Remember when contacted that it's best to hold off on giving any credit card or bank information until you have fully investigated the charity. And once you've done so the FTC recommends paying by check made payable to the beneficiary and not the solicitor. The checklist also suggests calling thecharity directly to ask if they are aware of the solicitation that you received on their behalf. Some may not be aware that scam artists are preying upon the public using their good name.

Perhaps the best tip on the FTC's checklist is to share with a trusted friend or family member the fact that you're thinking about making a charitable donation. Bouncing the idea off someone else, and sharing how you were contacted and your experience with the solicitor, could give you new insight on how wise your potential donation is.

Don't let these warnings squash that initial desire to help others. Rather use them as tools to enhance your giving experience while protecting yourself.

Metro Editorial Services