Charity scammers strike after violent tragedies such as the Colorado theater shootings and now the Newtown school shooting. The Better Business Bureau is alerting consumers of the possibility of phony charity solicitations, supposedly on behalf of the families of victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown last Friday. The BBB recommends donors avoid giving to charities or funds through unsolicited phone calls, emails, texts or social media appeals.
"Many people are interested in helping others by donating to a charity. Give wisely by checking on the organization before giving and make sure that your donation is being used for it's intended purpose by a trustworthy charity." said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois.
The BBB recommends asking the following questions before choosing to donate to a specific charity:
Is this a charity I can trust? Look at the appeal carefully; some charities have similar sounding names. Don't be fooled by names that look impressive or that closely resemble the name of a well-known organization. Check with your appropriate state government authorities (this is usually a division of the state's office of the attorney general) to verify the charity is registered to solicit in your state. Also, visit the website of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance (www.bbb.org/charity) to find out whether a national charity meets the 20 BBB charity standards that address charity governance, finances, fund raising, donor privacy, and other accountability issues.
How will the charity use my donation?
Watch out for statements such as "all proceeds will go to the charity." This can mean that only the money left after expenses, such as the cost of written materials and fund raising efforts, will go to the charity. These expenses can be high, so check carefully.
Is my donation tax deductible? If you want to take a charitable deduction for federal income tax purposes, make sure the organization is tax exempt as a charity under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. A charity appeal will usually include a reference to this. To verify a charity's tax status, access an IRS database of organizations by viewing Publication 78 on the IRS website at www.irs.gov. Consult your tax advisor for details.
Can the charity actually use what I'm donating?
Am I feeling pressured to give? Don't succumb to pressure to give money on the spot, either immediately over the phone via credit card or by allowing a "runner" to pick up a contribution. Take the time to research the charity fully; the charity that needs your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow.
The Connecticut BBB has provided some trustworthy charities to make donations to in this time of need:
Sandy Hook School Support Fund:
c/o Newtown Savings Banks
39 Main Street
Newtown, CT 06470.
Newtown Savings Bank collaboration working with the United Way and Red Cross:
Donations can also be made online at https://newtown.uwwesternct.org/.
The Newtown Rotary Club:
Donations can also be made online at http://www.newtownctrotary.org/.
For more advice on giving and to view reports on charities, visit www.bbb.org/charity.