Attorney General Todd Rokita advises Hoosiers to do careful research before donating to charities in order to avoid being scammed or having their contributions used in ways they might disapprove.
As the calendar changes from 2021 to 2022, many charities are soliciting donations in efforts to finish the year on strong financial footing and build a solid foundation for the months ahead. Scam artists are aware of this, and they often pose as charities in order to trick prospective donors into misdirecting their gifts.
“There is something distinctly repulsive about fraudsters who scheme to take advantage of Hoosiers’ good-hearted generosity,” Rokita said in a release. “Everyone should endeavor to help less fortunate neighbors and give to worthy causes. As we do that, though, we should take steps to ensure we’re not padding swindlers’ pockets rather than truly helping the needy.”
The Indiana Attorney General works to track down, investigate and bring to justice the criminals who perpetrate illegal scams. He works just as hard to help Hoosiers avoid becoming victims in the first place. To that end, Rokita offers the following tips:
• Research any charity to which you are considering donating.
• The FTC suggests searching online using the charity name plus words like “complaint,” “review,” or “scam.” Don’t be fooled by names that sound like well-known charities.
• Be sure to ask how much of your donation will go directly to the program you want to help — and do your own research to confirm.
• Beware of charities that pop up after recent disasters.
• Make sure you are dealing with the real charitable organization. Be leery of year-end appeals from unknown or unfamiliar organizations you receive by phone, mail, email, and/ or social media.
• If reached by phone, do not agree to donate money without further research into the organization.
• Don’t assume solicitations on social media or crowdfunding sites are legitimate — or that hyperlinks are accurate — even in posts shared or liked by your friends. Contact your friends offline and request information about links they share.
• It is generally safer to donate as part of a longstanding familiar relationship with a charitable cause than to respond to out-of-the-blue solicitations.
• When donating online, use a browser to navigate to a reputable charity’s verified website — and donate there rather than through a third party or “middleman” collectors, who often skim off a sizeable portion of donations even if they are legitimate.
• Legitimate, secure donation websites should begin with “https” (or feature a lock icon) rather than just “http.”
• Take your time and don’t overshare. Do not share personal information or financial information in response to unsolicited emails, texts or phone calls.
• Never feel rushed to donate.
• Be skeptical of solicitors who try to play on your emotions through heartrending stories or images. Remember that legitimate charities do not use pressure tactics.
• Always donate by credit card rather than cash or other methods, to ensure you can access the protections available through your credit card company.
• Make sure you haven’t signed up for a recurring donation if you didn’t want one.
• Look up a charity’s report and ratings on these websites:
Go online to indianaconsumer.com to report charity scams to the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Indiana Attorney General. If you need additional information regarding the Office’s Consumer Protection Division, please call 1-800-382-5516.