Verify solicitors' claims before deciding to respond, donate to charitable causes
In the days after Hurricane Katrina, thousands of people contributed millions of dollars to agencies collecting donations for the victims.
As the devastation along the Gulf Coast was played out through the media, everyone wanted to do something to help. Many well-known national organizations quickly set up the means to collect donations.
Unfortunately, many Americans fell prey to con artists who took advantage of the emotions of the moment to solicit funds for fraudulent charities that do not exist, pointed out Ann House, Utah State University Extension assistant professor.
It is estimated that 60 percent of the donation websites were scams.
Utahns are well known for their compassion and generous offerings, continued House. Unfortunately, Utahns are also well known for a high bankruptcy rate, high debt to income ratio and for susceptibility to scammers.
In fact, the state ranks eighth in the nation in generosity according to the Catalogue for Philanthropy Generosity Index as reported by the Utah Foundation. The ranking compares the states' income levels to donation levels.
Utah ranks 31st in income or "having" and second in donations or "giving," explained House. The difference between the rankings creates a "generosity" index.
Several tips from the United States Federal Trade Commission will help generous consumers avoid fraud when making charitable contributions, indicated House. The USU Extension assistant professor encouraged Carbon County residents to:
â¢Be wary of appeals that tug at consumers' heartstrings, especially pleas involving patriotism and current events.
â¢Ask for the name of the charity if the telemarketer does not provide it promptly.
â¢Ask what percentage of the donation is used to support the causes described in the solicitation and what percentage is used for administrative costs.
â¢Call the charity to find out if the organization's personnel are aware of the solicitation and have authorized the use of its name.
â¢If the telemarketer claims the charity will support local organizations, consumers should call the local groups to verify the claim.
â¢Discuss the donation with a trusted family member or friend before committing any funds.
â¢Consumers should never provide credit card or bank account information until they have reviewed all information from the charity and made the decision to donate.
â¢Ask for a receipt showing the amount of the contribution and stating that it is tax deductible.
â¢Understand that contributions made to a tax-exempt organization are not necessarily tax deductible.
â¢Avoid cash gifts.
For security and tax record purposes, it is best to donate by a check made payable to the beneficiary, not the solicitor, advised House.
â¢Be wary of groups selling merchandise claiming that all profits will benefit victims.
Some may be legitimate, while others may have no association with the organization they claim to represent and may be using a charity's name without approval, noted House.
â¢Take time to choose the recipients of charitable giving to make sure donations reach helping hands.