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Protect Yourself From Charity Scams This Holiday Season

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charity scams

With the Holidays just around the corner, expect to be deluged with charity appeals for some very worthy groups. But don’t forget, some use most of their donations for their own business expenses and in some case, most of your donations go to them and NOT the cause they are collecting for.

How can you tell the difference?

If you’re in Florida, check out the state’s’ Gift-Givers Guide. My Pine Rocklands Group is not only a Florida Non-Profit, it’s an IRS Approved 501-(C)3 so any donation to Save the Pine Rocklands is Tax Deductible. Happy Holidays and enjoy them safely.

Per Florida Dept. of Consumer Services:

This is the time of year when many people focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. If you are considering making a donation, take time to research the charity and make sure it is legitimate.

All charities soliciting within the state of Florida (excluding religious, educational, political and governmental agencies) are required to register and file financial information with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Some organizations may spend as much as 95 percent on their purpose or cause, while others spend more on administrative costs. It is up to the donor to determine if their contribution will be spent the way they intend.

Keep the following tips in mind before agreeing to donate:

  • Ask for financial information, such as a copy of the organization’s IRS 990 income tax return, annual report or a breakdown of how the money is spent.
  • Ask how your contribution will be used.
  • Ask if the caller is a volunteer or a paid solicitor if you are solicited by telephone.
  • Ask the solicitor for their license number.

Contact the FDACS toll-free hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or use our online Check-A-Charity tool to verify registration and financial information.

You can also visit Give.org the website of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, where you can access reports on nationally soliciting charities. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance evaluates charities against comprehensive Standards for Charity Accountability to help donors make informed giving decisions.

Protect Yourself from Charity Scams

If you are considering making a donation, take time to research the charity and make sure it is legitimate.

All charities soliciting within the state of Florida (excluding religious, educational, political and governmental agencies) are required to register and file financial information with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).

Call 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or use our online Check-A-Charity tool to find out if a charity is properly registered. You can also find out how much the charity is spending on administration and fundraising and how much money goes to actual programming.

Here are a few more tips for choosing a worthy charity and giving wisely:

  • Don’t judge a charity solely on an impressive-sounding name. Many organizations have names similar to well-known charities and organizations. Know who is asking you for money.
  • Be wary of emotional appeals, and be suspicious of organizations with only vague plans for dispensing the funds.
  • Ask the charity or organization why it is asking for donations. What purpose will be served? Ask questions and do not donate until you get satisfactory answers.
  • Some solicitors use pressure tactics and may even offer to send a “runner” to pick up your money. Reputable charities will not rush you to make a contribution.
  • Never give cash. Contribute by check and make it out to the organization.
  • If you decide to make a donation online, look for indicators that the website is secure, such as a web address that begins with “https:” (the “s” stands for secure).
  • Thank-you gifts for donations add to fundraising costs. You can donate directly to a charity and forego the gifts. The charity will then have a larger percentage of your contribution to use for its programs.
  • Be conscious of groups or individuals who solicit by telephone, mail and door-to-door. Other groups to be wary of are those who solicit on street corners. While they ask for charitable contributions, little is known about their charity or charitable purpose.
  • Be aware that many telephone appeals for funds are made by paid solicitors, not volunteers. The solicitors often work for a for-profit firm hired by the charitable organization. Telemarketing is expensive and may entail substantial fundraising costs.
  • Some organizations have 900 phone numbers. When you call the number, the cost of the call is automatically billed to your phone. Before dialing, make sure you wish to donate the price of the call (it may be expensive) to that particular cause.
  • Oftentimes the elderly are taken advantage of because of their vulnerability. Elderly consumers are encouraged to discuss charitable giving with a trusted family member or friend.
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Al Sunshine is a South Florida-based Broadcast and Digital Journalist whose career has spanned more than 40 years at the local and national levels. His award-winning investigations have triggered more than a dozen state and local consumer protection laws and his work’s been cited in Congressional Testimony before the U-S House of Representatives. He is best known for his “Shame On You” features for CBS Miami which sought to expose businesses, agencies and individuals defrauding or deceiving consumers, as well as endangering the safety and welfare of the general public. In 2013 Al retired from CBS Miami to set up his own Digital News Business, “Sunshine News, LLC” and Al continues to blog for the Radio, Television, Digital News Association, sponsors of the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Awards”. An avid environmentalist, Al is one of the founding members of the “Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition”. The Florida Non-Profit is fighting to save and restore the last 2% of Pine Rocklands found only in South Florida and nowhere else in the continental United States. Al was recently elected its President.