Research charity groups before donating, state offices advises

 

Don’t get scammed opening your heart – and your wallet – this holiday season.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp warns people to do their research before giving to charitable organizations to ensure their contributions help a worthy cause.

“Charitable donations have the most impact when given to groups that spend responsibly,” Kemp said in a news release. “Advance research can do a lot to ensure gifts are being used properly.”

Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Calvin Chew said that although the scams don’t increase during the holiday season, it’s a good time to be reminded to practice diligence and care when donating to those in need.

Many people are cautious of telephone solicitations and see other red flags when asked to give to charities, Chew said.

“People are smart. The majority of people know what’s going on,” he said. “They become suspicious when people call you asking you for money.”

Becoming familiar with an organization can help avoid being scammed. Kemp offers the following tips to help you make the most of your donation:

• Before contributing, research how much a charity spends on fundraising, employee salaries and expenses.

• Review the organization’s Web site and use online resources such as the Better Business Bureau (www.give.org) and GuideStar (www.guidestar.org) that provide information about nonprofits.

• If solicited by phone, ask for a request in writing and ask the caller whether he is a volunteer or paid. Never give credit or debit card or bank information to a telephone solicitor.

• If you are solicited by a group using the words “police” or “firefighter,” call the local police or fire department to verify the group.

• Be skeptical about organizations that only use P.O. Boxes, “PMB” addresses or mail drop suite addresses.

The secretary of state’s office also advises to be prepared if you want an IRS tax deduction for your contribution. Make sure the organization has a tax-deductible status by searching the IRS Web site (www.irs.gov/charities).

Also, make sure to get a receipt showing the amount of the contribution and the tax-deductible status.

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