Consumer Advisory: Lookout for charity scams
The Colorado Division of Securities cautions good Samaritans to be on the lookout for charity scams during final days of year-end giving
DENVER (Dec. 28, 2015) – The holidays are a popular time to give thanks for our blessings, and recognize that there are others less fortunate. While many legitimate charities and non-profits see an influx of donations at this time of year, unfortunately it also means that we in the regulatory business see more reports of fake charities who scam innocent do-gooders, as well as truly needy recipients, out of donations.
In addition to traditional donations given by check or card, it is becoming increasingly popular for donors to gift in-kind or by transferring securities to charities. So before you write that check, hand over goods or gift stocks or bonds to a non-profit, the Colorado Division of Securities, part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), encourages you to take five minutes to review these seven tips to help ensure that your money goes to a truly worthy cause.
- Do your homework. Especially if you have been contacted directly by a charity, make sure you search them online. Run a search for “complaints” along with the non-profit name to see if there have been any reports of fraudulent behavior.
- Never send cash or wire money to a charity. If they ask you to contribute in this way it should raise a red flag.
- Never send a donation to a non-profit claiming you’ll be entered into a sweepstakes. It is prohibited by law to require a donations in order to make someone eligible for a prize.
- Be particularly wary of charities that follow headline-making news. In times of crisis, it’s better to give to established charities that will be accountable for what they do with the donations.
- Take time to think about your donation. If someone is putting pressure on you to give right now, it’s best to walk away and tell them you’ll do research before giving. This can be particularly difficult with door-to-door solicitors, but just ask them for a pamphlet and a way to contact them later.
- Never give your financial information over to a person or charity before thoroughly vetting and establishing the legitimacy of the organization.
- Finally, if you think you’ve been contacted or have given money to a fraudulent charity operation, make sure you file a report. DORA can provide you with resources to make a report, or you can contact the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.
This holiday season, resolve to keep your investments - and donations - safe. The Division of Securities can be contacted at 303-894-2320 or online at dora.colorado.gov/dos with questions.