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  • Writer's pictureDennis McCaslin

Federal Trade Commission warns public about disreputable charities and nonprofits running scams

Folks throughout our region are noted for their commitment to helping other neighbors in time of need and a number of charities and nonprofits in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma do an amazing job of serving their needs in various ways.

But you want your donations to count, so it’s important to do some research before giving to a charity. Here are some things you can do to learn more about a charity and avoid donating to a scam.

There are public sources available to assist in determining whether a specific charity is legitimately registered with the appropriate state and federal agencies. To locate information such as exempt status, financial filings and other pertinent details, you can refer to our Knowledge Base article, How can I find information about a particular (non-grantmaking) charity?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides an online Charity Checklist with useful advice designed to help you determine whether the charity in question is a legitimate one.

Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. Scammers rush you so there’s no time to research their claims or think it through.

Don’t trust your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information. Calls can look like they come from your local area code, or from a specific organization, even if they don’t. In reality, the caller could be anywhere in the world.

If the fundraiser says you already pledged, stop and check.

They may lie and say — in a phone call or a mailer — that you already pledged to make the donation, or that you donated to them last year. They think that means you’ll be more willing to donate.

Listen carefully to the name of the charity, write it down, and then research it. Some scammers use names that sound a lot like other charities to trick you. Do some research before you give.

Watch out for sentimental claims with few details. Be suspicious if you hear a lot of vague sentimental claims, for example, that the charity helps many families that can’t afford food and veterans wounded at war who can’t work, but don’t give specifics about how your donation will be used.

Don’t donate with a wire transfer or gift card. Anyone asking you to donate this way is a scammer.

Sweepstakes winning in exchange for a donation? Nope. If someone guarantees you’ll win a prize or contest if you contribute, that’s a scam. You won’t win anything, and your donation money will go to a scammer.

A charity is only as good as the people who run it, so find out who the principals are in an organization then research their background and credentials before giving up your hard[-dollars.

Have a charitable heart, but before you donate do your homework who and what your money is going to support.

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