CHICAGO, Nov. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As we continue to watch the recovery efforts of Hurricane Sandy begin, there's a natural inclination to do whatever we can to help. Today's hi-tech world allows donations to be made quickly and easily through texting, tweeting, gaming, Facebooking, and even recognizable giants like Groupon and iTunes. The downside of technology is how easily it can be used against people for personal gain. Scammers are flooding email boxes with messages seeking donations and domains have been established to fool people into thinking they're legitimate donation sites.
Make sure your donation gets to the right place to be of maximum benefit to those in need and no harm is done to your personal finances and security by proceeding with a little caution and heeding these guidelines from the Illinois CPA Society:
- When in doubt, don't. Don't open unsolicited (SPAM) email, click on links in an unsolicited email, or respond to messages from sources you don't recognize seeking email donations. Only open attachments from known senders.
- Make sure you're giving to a valid charity. Beware of groups using names similar to larger, respected organizations. Use sites such as the American Institute of Philanthropy's www.charitywatch.org to make sure the charity is legitimate. Even though a group is listed when checking such sources, make your donation by going to the charity's website rather than through an e-mail message. Scammers are getting very good at replicating donation sites so that you really think you are donating to the real charity.
- Ask questions. How will your donation be used? What percentage of the contribution goes directly to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts? Is this an experienced organization? Get the charity's full name, website, address and phone number. Don't contribute to any charity that won't answer your questions or refuses to provide information.
- Take steps to protect your identity. Only provide credit card numbers on secure websites; be careful when sharing credit card numbers or any personal information over the phone. Know who you're speaking with and who may be listening to your call - or who's looking over your shoulder when online in public places.
- Consider your payment method. Checks and credit cards are better than cash and help charities avoid tracking and security problems and your statements are proof of your donation. However, don't make checks payable to an individual or allow anyone to make a contribution on your behalf.
As you would with any charitable donation, keep receipts and records. Check to make sure the right amount appears on your credit card bill, bank statement, or if texting, your phone bill. Keep those items on hand if you plan on taking a tax deduction for your charitable contribution on your 2012 tax return and be certain that the receiving organization is a qualified charity under IRS Code. Check www.guidestar.org for more information about charities recognized by the IRS.
When in doubt, check with a CPA for guidance on charitable giving. If you need a CPA, the Illinois CPA Society site, www.icpas.org, has a "Find a CPA" directory that can help you locate a professional in your area.
About the Illinois CPA Society
The Illinois CPA Society, founded in 1903, is the fourth largest state CPA Society in the nation, with more than 24,000 members. It is the premier professional organization that represents CPAs in Illinois. During its over 100 years of existence, the Society has advanced the highest ethical and financial standards of the profession, and has been a leader in educating the public on financial issues.
SOURCE Illinois CPA Society