Whether it's out of the goodness of your heart or you are looking for a tax break, many people donate to charities this time of year. Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin recommends that consumers be cautious when making charitable donations to ensure they are not a victim of fraud and to choose charities that help people the most.
"Rhode Islanders are very generous in donating time and money to those in need. Unfortunately, there are people who are waiting to take advantage of that generosity by stealing monies that are meant to benefit a good cause," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "As the economy continues to struggle and many of our neighbors fight to makes ends meet, it is important to donate to charities whose operating and administrative costs are low to ensure the maximum amount of money goes to help the people it is intended to benefit."
Attorney General Kilmartin offers the following tips to ensure your charitable donations go to help those in need and not to line the pockets of a scam artist:
Before you make a donation, research the charity and/or non-profit organization.
Verify the legitimacy of the organization. Charities soliciting donations in the State of Rhode Island are required to be registered with the Department of Business Regulation at www.dbr.ri.gov.
Several websites, including www.charitynavigator.org, www.give.org and www.guidestar.org provide helpful information regarding numerous charities. These websites can be a useful starting point for consumers looking to research companies prior to making a donation.
Find out how your donation will be used and what percentage of the funds will be used for programming and how much will be spent on administrative costs.
Ask for a copy of the charity's financial report. Reputable charities will be happy to provide this information.
Be careful of charities with names that sound impressive or resemble those of other organizations. Some scam artists use names similar to reputable organizations to confuse donors.
Do not pay bills or invoices you have received from charities unless you know you have already made a commitment to support them.
Never send cash! Always contribute by check or credit card. Donate directly to the charity.
Remember to ask for a receipt and a statement that the contribution is tax deductible.
If solicited in person, ask to see identification for both the solicitor and the charity.
For more tips to protect consumers this holiday season, please visit www.riag.ri.gov
About the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit
The Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit investigates and mediates consumer complaints concerning unfair and unlawful business practices and misleading advertising arising out of alleged violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. If groups of people are victimized by a deceptive trade practice, this office may file in the Superior Court a civil investigative demand, which is a formal investigation. In appropriate cases, a lawsuit to stop the illegal business practice may be initiated.
Apart from carrying out its statutory responsibilities, the Unit also provides information and referral services to the general public. Consumers are directed to the appropriate governmental or private agencies for help in answering specialized questions or resolving disputes, which are not within the Unit's jurisdiction.
The Consumer Protection Unit is available to speak to community groups on how to protect from being a victim of identity theft and other scams. If you believe you are a victim of consumer fraud or abuse, please contact the Consumer Protection Unit by calling 401-274-4400.