CHICAGO, June 17, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In times of need, donating to a charity can be one of the best options for busy, everyday consumers who want to help others. Scammers know people donate to causes they wish to help, but don't know what they, personally, can do to help. Fake charities are the newest wave of scams hitting consumers. The Federal Trade Commission recently accused four cancer charities of deceitfully collecting more than $187 million from well-meaning donors and using the bulk of donations for company cars, increased salaries, and even a Caribbean cruise rather than the promised hospice care, chemotherapy, and other services.
"Individuals donating to charity want to help the people the charity was created to support," said AARP Illinois Communications Manager Gerardo Cardenas. "Fake charities rely on donors to not look into where and how their money is being used, and are scamming individuals of millions of dollars. AARP's Fraud Watch Network provides common sense tips that will help consumers avoid fraudulent individuals and organizations, and ensure that their money goes to the right place."
AARP Fraud Watch Network has compiled tips for those considering donating to a worthy cause to protect their hard-earned money and to make sure their money is going to the right place:
- Request detailed information about the charity, including exact name, address, and telephone number.
- Keep a record of any donations made.
- Get a written description of the programs the charity supports and how your money will be used. For example, find out what percentage of donations go to actual programs versus administrative and fundraising costs.
- Do your research. Don't let a respected charity name or one that sounds like a well-known charity fool you. Searching the charity's name online, especially with the word "complaint(s)" or "scam," is a quick way to learn its reputation.
- Check the charity's score on Charity Navigator, a website that tracks thousands of non-profit organizations performances.
- Ask for the charity's tax-exempt letter indicating its IRS status. You can't claim a tax-deductible donation if the charity doesn't have one.
- Never give cash. For security and tax purposes, it's best to pay by check or by credit card.
- Never wire money to someone claiming to be a charity. Scammers request donations be wired because wiring money is like sending cash: once you send it, you can't get it back.
- Don't give out your Social Security number. A charity does not need it for you to claim a tax deduction.
- Don't give into high-pressure or emotional appeals urging you to donate on the spot.
If you are a victim of charity-related fraud, report the organization to your local police department, Attorney General's office, charity office, or the Federal Trade Commission. If fraudulent solicitations arrived by mail contact your local postmaster.
In 2014, AARP launched the Fraud Watch Network to arm Americans with the tools and resources they need to spot and avoid scams and identity theft. But scammers are still out there, making every attempt possible to cheat consumers out of their hard-earned money. The public can sign up for free to receive Fraud Watch Network alerts and more at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.
SOURCE AARP Illinois