Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today offered advice to help Ohioans make wise charitable contributions and avoid scams following the catastrophic flooding in Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey.
“We encourage people to be generous in helping those affected by the devastating floods in Texas,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We also encourage people to make sure their donations go to legitimate causes, not scammers. A little bit of research can go a long way to avoid being taken advantage of when helping those in need.”
Tips for making charitable donations after a natural disaster:
- Carefully review donation requests. Do some research to make sure your donation will be used as intended. After a natural disaster or national tragedy, some sham charities pop up to take advantage of people’s generosity. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites have been vetted. The first donation request you find may not be the best.
- Evaluate charities using resources such as the Ohio Attorney General’s Office (or the offices of other state attorneys general), IRS Select Check, Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and GuideStar.
- Beware of “look-alike” websites or accounts. Be skeptical of charities or groups with names that sound similar to well-known organizations. They may be intended to confuse donors. If you receive a message from an organization asking for a donation, confirm that the request truly is from the organization, and not an impostor, by contacting the organization directly or visiting its website.
- Be careful when giving to newly formed charities. Some charities that are formed shortly after a natural disaster or tragedy have good intentions but lack the experience to properly handle donors’ contributions. Established charities are more likely to have experience to respond following a tragedy and to have a track record that you can review.
- Review claims carefully. Some groups sell merchandise online and claim that “100 percent of the proceeds” will benefit a specific charitable purpose, but this claim does not necessarily mean 100 percent of the sales price will go toward the cause. Contact the organization to ask how much of each purchase will support the cause. If the organization cannot give you an answer, consider donating another way.
- Contact a charity before raising money on its behalf. If you want to set up a fundraiser for a particular charity, contact the organization in advance and determine how you can properly collect donations.
Signs of a potential charity scam include:
- High-pressure tactics.
- No details about how your donation will be used.
- Refusal to provide written information about the charity.
- Organizations with names that sound similar to other better-known organizations.
- Requests for donations made payable to a person instead of a charity.
- Offers to pick up donations immediately versus in the mail or online.
Those who suspect a charity scam or questionable charitable activity should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office investigates and takes enforcement action against charitable fraud.