Press-Republican

April 29, 2013

Avoid fake Boston bombing charities


Press-Republican

---- — ALBANY — An outpouring of generosity towards those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings has been accompanied by some scammers operating fake charities.

“I am committed to protecting New Yorkers from scammers who might look to take advantage of a tragedy to bilk people out of their charitable contributions, State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a news release.  

In the wake of media reports of donors being scammed by fake charities, he offers the following tips:

▶ Check before giving. Donate to charities you are familiar with and carefully review information about them before you give. Most charities are required to register and file financial reports with the Attorney General’s Office if they are raising money from the public. Check the attorney general’s website, www.charitiesnys.com, for financial reports or ask the charity directly for its reports. 

▶ Check to see if the charity is a tax-exempt organization. These websites offer information that helps evaluate charities: American Institute of Philanthropy, www.charitywatch.org; Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, www.bbb.org; Charity Navigator, www.charitynavigator.org; GuideStar, www.guidestar.org.

▶ Ask how your donation will be used, including what services and individuals will receive aid.Avoid charities that make emotional appeals but are vague in answering your questions or that will not provide you with written information. Confirm that all of your contribution will be used to help victims of the bombings and whether you are able to restrict your gift to that purpose.

▶ Be wary of newly formed organizations. Donate to charities you are familiar with or that have experience assisting victims of tragedies. Often, in the aftermath of tragedies, new organizations are formed with claims that they will assist victims. While some may be doing just that, others turn out to be scams. Before making a contribution to a new organization, find out who is running it and how it plans to use donations. If you are not satisfied with the answers or are not familiar with the organizers, consider giving to another charity.

▶ Be careful when giving through social media. As with other recent tragedies, social media sites are being used to raise money for victims of the bombings. Before giving through these sites, check out who is behind the fundraising efforts and ask the same questions you would of a charity.

▶ Before you text a contribution, check the charity’s website or call it to confirm it has authorized contributions to be made via text message. Keep in mind that donations via text messaging may not reach the charity until after your phone bill is paid. It may be faster to contribute directly to the charity.

▶ Don’t give cash. Give directly to the charity either by a check made payable to the organization or through the charity’s website.

▶ Be careful about personal information. Avoid giving credit card or personal information over the phone or by text message. In all cases, make sure you are familiar with the organization to which you give such information and check to see that the fundraising campaign is legitimate.

▶ Avoid unsolicited spam emails. These formats are usually not associated with legitimate charities. 

▶ Report suspicious organizations. If you believe an organization is misrepresenting its work or that a scam is taking place, contact the attorney general’s Charities Bureau atcharities.complaints@ag.ny.gov.