We know that many of our clients are demonstrating their generosity by contributing to many different charities—tough times can truly bring out the best of us. Unfortunately, the opposite can also be true. I’ve already heard of scams seeking gift cards to help my “hospitalized” wife (she hasn’t been). Thus we want you to pass on these tips from Minnesota’s Attorney General if you are considering making a donation to help with Coronavirus issues:
- Never make a donation by money-wire, cash, or gift cards.
- Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook or other social media are legitimate. Research them yourself.
- Under Minnesota law, most fundraisers and charitable organizations that solicit donations from Minnesotans are required to register and report each year with the Attorney General’s Office. See if the charity is registered in Minnesota by checking on the Attorney General’s web page. Although not every charity needs to register, failing to register can be a red flag.
- Look for charities you already know and trust. To be sure that your money is going where you want it to go (and to minimize the chance of any extra fees being taken from your donation), consider donating directly through that charity’s own website, instead of through a social media or crowdfunding page.
- Before donating through a social media or crowdfunding page, research the organizer of the campaign, the cause, and how the money will be used to avoid scams, particularly if the webpage sprung up overnight in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
- If a charity claims to help your local community in some way, double-check. Contact the local organization the charity claims to help to make sure that it actually does. If you are donating to people you don’t know, look for specific information about the situation that can be verified.
- If the first time you have heard of a charity is the result of a telemarketing call, ask questions and do not feel pressured to donate during the call. Many less scrupulous charities use telemarketers and urge you to donate immediately.
- Ask any charity who asks or pressures you to donate questions about how it plans to use your donation. Do not feel obligated to donate to a charity until you are comfortable you know enough to make an informed decision.