March 1, 2014
Many people in our country, especially seniors, care deeply about others, and they want to do something good for those who are less fortunate. Unbelievably, criminals will use these altruistic feelings to feather their own nests. These con criminals will make you think you are giving to a good cause but the result is that the money goes to them.
The Opening Pitch
The mail and phone calls are often used in many scams seeking donations for everything from helping disabled veterans, to aiding injured animals, to feeding orphans in Africa, to lobbying Congress about Social Security. A common ploy is to take a current news event such as a natural disaster and claim to be collecting for that cause.
The presentation is quite simple: the mailer or caller describes the charity or cause in vivid detail, making it seem worthy. The pitch may play on your feelings of guilt over the crisis or your desire to help others.
It is often difficult to determine after the fact if the donation you made was to a bonafide charity and if the money actually got to the cause that was presented.
How to Avoid It
The best thing you can do before you give to any charity is to research whether the charity is true and to find out how much of the money you give goes to the charitable purpose versus how much goes to the cost of fundraising. You can do this by asking the charity when they call or by contacting the Secretary of State’s office and asking for the registration number and financial reports for the charity in question. Some “legitimate” charitable fundraisers keep over 80 percent of the money they raise.
Some charity-minded people develop their own annual charity-giving plan. They select charities after investigating them thoroughly. As part of the plan, they decide how much and to whom they will give each year and then say, “No, thank you,” when other charities call or write during the balance of the year. This strategy allows the givers to know where their money is going and to avoid being drawn in by a phony emotional appeal.