FTC Alerts Consumers to Potential Charity Scams

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In the aftermath of the tsunami, the Federal Trade Commission is urging consumers to be cautious of potential charity scams. Fraudsters may take advantage of the tragedy by creating bogus fundraising operations. The FTC’s “FTC Charity Checklist” lists precautions consumers can take to ensure that their donations go to legitimate charities.

The checklist, available at www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt114.shtm, recommends that you:

  • Ask for the name of the charity if a telephone solicitor does not provide it promptly.
  • Ask what percentage of your donation will support the cause described in the solicitation.
  • Verify that the charity has authorized the solicitation. Check out a charity by contacting the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance: 4200 Wilson Blvd., Suite 800, Arlington, VA 22203; 703-276-0100; www.give.org.
  • Do not give out personal or financial information – including Social Security, credit card and bank account numbers – to anyone who solicits a contribution from you. Scam artists can use this information to commit fraud against you.
  • Ask for a receipt showing the amount of the contribution and stating that it is tax- deductible.
  • Do not give cash. For security and tax record purposes, it is best to pay by check – made payable to the beneficiary, not the solicitor.
  • Ask for identification if you are approached in person. Many states require paid fundraisers to identify themselves as such and to name the charity for which they are soliciting.

To order copies of this or other FTC Consumer Alerts, visit www.ftc.gov/ftc/contact.shtm#publications. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available for hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

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