MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - It's the season for making charitable donations, but consumer experts say don't open your wallet until you know where your money is headed.
"People are trying to get those last minute donations in before they file their taxes next year," stated Emily Nichols with the Consumer Protection Division of the Alabama Attorney General's Office. "You have this huge surge of people giving to charities all over the world, not just in Alabama."
Nichols encourages consumers to do their homework to verify the charity is valid.
"There's a lot of fraud that comes along with charitable activity because there's a lot of money in it," Nichols explained.
Nichols urged consumers to research the charity or charities of their choice. Determine the detailed information about the charity and if it's a legitimate organization.
Due to the increase in donations during this season, fraudulent groups posing as charities attempt to solicit funds and prey on the goodness of those who want to contribute.
The Federal Trade Commission says these scenarios should raise a red flag that you've been solicited by a charity scam:
- Refuses to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, costs, and how the donation will be used.
- Won't provide proof that a contribution is tax deductible.
- Uses a name that closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization.
- Thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making.
- Uses high-pressure tactics like trying to get you to donate immediately, without giving you time to think about it and do your research.
- Asks for donations in cash or asks you to wire money.
- Offers to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect the donation immediately.
- Guarantees sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. By law, you never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.
The Alabama Attorney General's Office manages charitable solicitation and provides a registry of charitable organizations. If your organization isn't listed, Nichols encourages you to call the Consumer Division to further inquire about the organization.
"We love for people to call and ask questions about why a charity may not appear," Nichols said. "They may be exempt from that law and not have to appear there."
Nichols also discourages anyone from giving their debit or credit card numbers over the phone as a charitable donation.
"You can write checks, don't write checks to someone soliciting to your door - write the check out to the charity itself," Nichols said. "That's more common than you think."
To access the charity database click here:
The Consumer Division hotline: 1-800-392-5658 or 334-242-7335