As we get into the holiday season, many of us get letters and phone calls requesting contributions to various charitable organizations. Most charities receive most of their donations between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The vast majority of charities do very wonderful work for the needy and we are certainly fortunate to have so many people dedicated to serving others.
However, there are always a few rotten apples in the charitable organization barrel that can spoil the entire process and give a bad name to the legitimate charities. We all need to make wise choices in donating money because some organizations that claim to be charities may not be entirely legitimate. It is important for people to take the time to make sure that whatever money or items they are donating will be used appropriately. Any honest and legitimate organization will be willing to share pertinent information with potential givers.
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When charities contact you asking for donations, it is a good idea to ask that charity to provide written information about the organization including the exact name of the organization, the organization’s purpose, tax identification number, and how much of each dollar is used for true charitable purposes. Some groups use names that sound like established charities in order to confuse potential donors.
Givers should be wary of the following tactics that many fraudulent organizations use:
1. High pressure calls and mail solicitations that emphasize emotional content but contain little or no substance;
2. Charities that won’t send written material until you donate. Some may use the excuse that it is too costly or that there isn’t enough time;
3. Phone calls and letters telling people that they have won money or charitable prizes from a charity, but that you need to send in some money to collect the prize. Also some organizations may send letters stating that you have already pledged money to that organization. You shouldn’t send money unless you are one hundred percent sure that you did indeed pledge money to the organization;
4. Callers who want to send someone over to pick up the contribution rather than it being sent at a later time.
Unfortunately many unscrupulous people and organizations tend to prey on our older citizens. Many elderly citizens tend to be more trusting and generous. We should all be careful to never give cash or credit card numbers to strangers posing as employees of charitable organizations. Checks should always be made payable only to the full name of the charity.
If you feel you have been scammed by a fraudulent charity, you should contact your local police department to investigate the matter or come to the County Attorney’s Office to file criminal charges if you feel you have sufficient information. Criminal charges can be filed against fraudulent organizations claiming to be charities. Theft by Deception involving less than five-hundred dollars ($500) is a Class A Misdemeanor with punishments ranging up to 1 year in jail and a $500 fine. Moreover, you can contact the Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-432-9257 and they may be able to prosecute the matter under the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act.
I hope this information is interesting and helpful. If you have any topics you would like to have covered in this column, please contact my office by e-mail at email@example.com, by phone at 859-491-7700 or by regular mail addressed to 319 York Street, Newport, Kentucky 41071.
By Steven Franzen, Campbell County Attorney