• Hurricane Florence: Beware of post-storm donation scams

    By: Shelia Poole, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Updated:

    When disasters happen, many people open their hearts and wallets to help.

    Charitable givers, though, should be careful to protect themselves from scams.

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    Experts said scammers are likely to solicit for donations, so it is important to do research before writing a check, WXIN reported.

    "Unfortunately there are people that take advantage of this," Central Indiana Better Business Bureau CEO Tim Maniscalo told the television station.

    Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp agreed.

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    “We must be careful that the financial capital and resources Georgians seek to give do not fall into the hands of malicious actors,” Kemp said in a statement. 

    Here are some guidelines to follow:

    • Take the time to make sure that your money is really going to help those in need and ask how much of your donation will go to the cause. The percentage of your contribution that a charity spends on fundraising activities, employee salaries, or expenses which do not directly support the charity’s stated mission varies by organization. 

    • Use online resources like the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and Charity Watch which provide detailed information about non-profit organizations to research charities and review the organization’s own website before contributing. 

    • Be wary of phone solicitations, Ask the individual to put the request in writing and provide detailed information and material about the charity and its program. Also, ask if the person conducting the solicitation is a volunteer or a paid fundraiser for that charity. Never give your credit card, debit card, or bank account information to a telephone solicitor. 

    • Be particularly cautious of couriers willing to rush out to your home or business to pick up your contribution. Avoid sending cash donations and do not make payments to individuals. Donate by credit card or check directly to the charity. If your contribution exceeds $250, you should receive a letter from the charity confirming its charitable status as well as the donation amount. 

    • Not all organizations with charitable-sounding names are actually charities. Be sure you know exactly who is asking for your contribution because many organizations adopt names confusingly similar to well-known charities. 

    • If a tax deduction is important to you, make sure the organization has a tax-deductible status with the Internal Revenue Service. “Tax exempt,” “non-profit”, and “tax-deductible” are not synonymous. Only “tax-deductible” means your contribution is deductible on your income tax return. If you contribute to a charity, make sure you get a receipt which shows the amount of your contribution and states that the contribution is tax-deductible. The IRS has a searchable database of organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. 

    If you see a fundraiser run by an individual on a website like GoFundMe, Maniscalo said be skeptical because the site may not be vetted.

    >> Photos: Hurricane Florence batters Carolinas

    "You’ve got to watch out and make certain that you give to a legitimate organization," Maniscalo told WXIN.

    One legitimate organization that will be in the Carolinas to help is The Salvation Army, the television station reported.

    For a list of highly rated charities by category, specific to Hurricane Florence, go to Charity Navigator.


     

     

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