Our hearts go out to the residents of California, Washington and Oregon who have been forced to leave their homes due to unprecedented fires. The fires continue to rage, dozens of people have lost their lives and thousands of homes and business have been destroyed.

As this newsletter is being drafted, a string of hurricanes is poised to hit the already devastated area of the Gulf Coast.

If you are looking for a way to give to a non profit to provide assistance, first do your research to ensure that your donation goes to a reputable organization that will use the money as promised.

Urgent appeals for aid from door-to-door solicitors, phone calls, emails or social networking sites may not be on the up and up. Unfortunately, fraudsters are soliciting for bogus charities, while other charities may not be transparent about how they will use your contribution.

I encourage you to donate to a cause that matches your passion. But before you donate, read our tips below to make sure your dollars go to legitimate organizations.

As always, be safe.
Beth

What to Look for When Giving

We continue to watch and wonder what additional damage the hurricanes and fires will bring. Emergency preparations are in place and those in the path of these disasters are being updated on what they can and should do to protect themselves.

But what about those of us who are standing ready to help with donations? Here’s what you need to know about how to avoid charity fraud.

If you want to provide assistance, first and foremost, make sure you know exactly where you are sending your money. If you are not diligent, you may end up being a victim of an opportunist scammer hoping to take advantage of your generosity. The best way to avoid charity fraud is to go online and do your research to make sure your money goes to a reputable organization.

• Research – Search for a cause you want to connect with. Use search phrases like “hurricane relief” or “California fire relief.”

• Payment – Do not pay by cash, gift card or by wiring money. That’s how scammers collect, not legitimate charities. Instead, pay with a check or credit card. If you are paying through an online portal make sure you know how your money is getting to the charity.

Use these organizations to help research charities:
These organizations offer reports and ratings about how charitable organizations spend donations and how they conduct business:
BBB Wise Giving Alliance
Charity Navigator
CharityWatch
GuideStar

The IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search will identify if your donation is tax deductible. The Colorado state charity regulator link and other important consumer resources can be found on our Denver District Attorney website under the Consumer Protection tab. In order to ask for donations, Colorado requires a charity, or its fundraiser, to formally register the organization. If you believe you were approached by charity scammers or were a victim of charity scams, connect with your state charity regulator and report it to the FTC.gov/complaint.

Keep these tips in mind when considering donating:

• Donate to charities you know and trust with a proven track record of dealing with disasters. And, as always, research a charity before you give.
• Designate your dollars to a program rather than the organization’s general fund.
• Do not assume that charity messages posted on social media are legitimate. Research the organization yourself. Search its name and add “complaint,” “review,” “rating,” or “scam” to your word search.
• Text-To-Donate can be easy, but first confirm the number before you donate. The charge will show up on your mobile phone bill, but donations are not immediate.

Colorado requires charities and fundraisers be registered in the state. This site outlines each states requirements for charities to run National Association of State Charity Officials. If the charity should be registered, but is not, consider donating through another organization.

W.W.S.D. – (What Would Scammers Do?)

Be alert for scammers tricks! Scammers love to:
• Rush you into making a donation.
• Trick you into paying them by first thanking you for your “previous donation” that you never made.
• Change the caller ID to make it look like a local call and area code.
• Use names that sound a lot like the names of real charities.
• Give vague claims and sentimental stories about their “work” but provide no specifics on how your donation will be used.
• Say that your donation is tax-deductible.
• Ask you to pay via money card or wiring the money.

If you get a call from a new charity, ask them to mail you their information. If there is nothing to send, it’s likely there is nothing legit about the charity.