(COLUMBIA, SC) - Secretary of State Mark Hammond joins with state charities regulators across the country, the National Association of State Charities Officials (NASCO) and the Federal Trade Commission to announce the first-annual International Charity Fraud Awareness Week (ICFAW) from October 22 to 26, 2018. ICFAW is a coordinated international campaign to help charities and consumers avoid charity fraud and promote wise giving. International participants include the charities regulators, charities, and professional associations from the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. You can follow the international campaign on social media at #CharityFraudOut.
“I am pleased that our office is joining other states and countries in this coordinated effort,” said Secretary Hammond. “Unfortunately, charity fraud knows no borders, especially in the age of social media. Accountability and transparency on behalf of charitable organizations are key to combating charity fraud, but ultimately the best weapon remains the educated donor.” As part of ICFAW, Secretary Hammond is encouraging South Carolinians to follow these wise giving tips when making a charitable contribution:
Do Your Research
- Confirm that the charity you are considering donating to is registered to solicit in South Carolina by using the Charity Search feature on the Secretary of State’s website. You can also review registered charities’ financial information including total revenue, total expenses, fundraising costs, and the percentage spent on charitable programs.
- Check out the charity’s ratings with groups like the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, and GuideStar.
- Use the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search to see if your donation is tax-deductible.
- What are the charity’s website, address, and mission?
- How much of your donation will go directly to program services, rather than fundraising?
- How much of your donation will be used for the specific programs you want to support?
- If supporting services in your own community is important to you, ask how the charity spends money in your area.
Watch Out for Scammers’ Tricks
- Scammers spoof caller ID to make their fundraising calls look like they’re from your local area code, a Washington, D.C. area code, or from an organization you know.
- Scammers pressure you into donating immediately before you have time to do any research. A legitimate charity will welcome your donation at any time.
- Scammers claim that you’ll win a sweepstakes or get a prize if you donate, which is against the law.
- Scammers will thank you for a donation you don’t remember making. Scammers do that to trick you into thinking you actually made a pledge and to guilt you into sending money.
- If someone asks you to send them cash, wire money, donate by gift card, or leave money under your front door mat for pick-up, don’t do it! That’s how scammers often ask you to pay. Also, you should never feel pressured to give out your credit card information over the phone.
Be Wary of Crowdfunding Campaigns
Many requests for donations through social media and crowdfunding sites are legitimate, but some are scams. For example, there are people who misuse real pictures and stories to get you to donate, but the money goes into their own pockets. Crowdfunding sites often have little control over who uses them and how donations are spent. Research before you give. Also, if tax deductions are important to you, remember that donations to individuals are not tax-deductible.
The safest way to give on social media or through crowdfunding is to donate to people you actually know who contact you about a specific project. Don’t assume that solicitations on social media or crowdfunding sites are legitimate – even when they are shared or liked by your friends. Do your own research. Call or contact your friends offline and ask them about the post they shared.
Advice for Businesses
Your business may be approached for charitable contributions, too. You want your donations to go to reputable non-profits, and you want to avoid inadvertently associating your company with a questionable fundraising campaign. When you lend your company name to a charity through a sponsorship or by allowing fundraising on your property, your reputation is on the line. Customers and members of the community may interpret that as a “stamp of approval” and feel safe to donate to a cause you’re championing. Therefore, before lending your business’ name to a charity or allowing solicitations on your premises, find out more about who’s doing the asking. Check out the Federal Trade Commission’s Tips for Retailers: How to Review Charity Requests.
Report Your Concerns to the Secretary of State
If you have concerns about a charity, you can file a confidential complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office by using the Online Charitable Solicitation Complaint Form. You can also call the Division of Public Charities at 1-888-CHARITI (242-7484).
Contact: Renee S. Daggerhart