Consumers Are Warned To Watch Out For Solicitation Calls In The Name Of Charity

The National Center for Charitable Statistics recently reported that 1.5 million non-profit organizations exist in the US today. Even if a person is listed on the "Do Not Call" list, they are allowed to make solicitation calls. Unfortunately, this claims many victims. Charities represent a $211.77 billion dollar industry, but many are bogus while others are designed in such a way where the majority of the funds given end up in the pockets of administrators. As a result, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued new warnings to consumers to be certain that organizations receiving donations are efficient and that scam artists are avoided at all costs.

There are watchdog groups such as Charity Watch, Charity Navigator, the Better Business Bureau, and the FTC that have been created to help consumers ensure their donations are going where recipients intend. It has been found that charities that designate 60-75% of collected funds to causes rather than administrative costs are good whereas those that spend less than 60%, such as the 2012 Kony campaign that only spent 37% on the cause, should be avoided. Additionally, individuals should be cautious of solicitation calls about a supposed charity only to find that they have revealed enough personal and financial information to allow their identities to be stolen by scammers.

Even though warnings have been issued, it's important that consumers continue to donate to their favorite charities. Many of these organizations are dedicated to helping those in need. However, with today's evolving scams, caution should be exercised to ensure that the people being helped are in good hands. Below are a few tips from the FTC that may help individuals avoid charity scams and get donated money where it will be best spent.

o Scams usually spring up overnight and are often associated with natural disasters. These should be avoided.
o When receiving a call from a telemarketer, never give out personal or financial information over the phone. Ask for literature then follow up by researching them through accredited websites.
o There are governmental offices that regulate charities in each state. Legitimate charities will be registered. To find the agency that regulates charities where you live, contact the National Association of State Charity Officials website at http://www.nasconet.org/documents/u-s-charity-offices/.
o Ask specifically who gets the money and how it is divided. Scam artists are reluctant to give out this information.
o When contacted by a telemarketer, call the charity itself and find out if they are affiliated with an organization that does telephone solicitations. Also check out the name of the person that contacted you to ensure they are a representative. Many scammers use the name of a known charity, but have the money sent to a personal account.
o Charities claiming to support a local organization or cause should be checked out through the cause itself to verify that they are actually receiving the money.
o A common practice for scammers is to use a name similar to the actual name. For example, if someone claims to be representing the Muscular Dystrophy Organization, be aware that this is not the same thing as the Muscular Dystrophy Association that most people are familiar with.
o If you feel pressured, hang up. Charities that are legitimate don't use pressure tactics to get people to donate.
o Never give cash. Any checks written should be made to the charity itself and not anyone representing the group. Additionally, if donating through an online website, make sure it's secure (it will have an "http" IP address and/or a lock symbol on the browser bar) and never give financial and personal information over the phone.
To ensure that your money is going where it's most needed, the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance (http://www.bbb.org/us/charity/) has information about each organization and even rates their effectiveness. The American Institute of Philanthropy also rates over 550 individual charities. Prior to making any donation, always investigate the organization thoroughly using every source available. With the current tough economic times, scams are on the rise so consumers are warned to take every precaution possible when giving their hard-earned money away.
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