If you’re looking to help out a charity in need during the down economy, make sure your donation is going where you intend it to go.
Douglas County Attorney District Charles Branson said there are plenty of ways scammers can bilk you out of your hard-earned money. But it’s fairly simple to check out where your money is going.
“There are some pretty easy ways to do it,” he said. “You just have to spend a little bit of time before you donate.”
If you have a question about a particular charity, Branson suggests logging onto www.kansascharitycheck.org, which provides information about organizations authorized to solicit donations in the state.
If that doesn’t clear things up, you can contact Branson’s office or the Kansas Attorney General’s office.
There are some red flags, though.
One is if a caller is unwilling to mail you additional information or wants your credit card information on the spot.
“Never give that information out over the phone,” Branson said.
Also, make sure you understand the exact name of an organization.
For example: “There are a lot of legitimate law enforcement charities out there, raising funds for some sort of sheriff’s organization,” Branson said. “But some play on the words, and it doesn’t end up going to a place where people think it’s going.”
And even if an organization is legitimate, it doesn’t mean it’s a wise investment of your dollars. Branson suggested visiting www.give.org, run by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, to find out how much of a nonprofit spends on overhead.
“Some of these places out there, although they’re legitimate charities, spend 80 percent on overhead and 20 percent goes to their work,” Branson said. “Do you believe you’re still doing much good if you’re giving 20 cents on the dollar?”
Branson’s office also has seen an uptick in the number of charity and non-charity related scam reports as the economy has soured. And when times get desperate, he said, people are sometimes more likely to take the bait.
“There are people who are desperate, and so they are a little more hopeful that something is legitimate — like lottery scams or check scams,” he said.