As Kentuckians open their hearts and pocketbooks to help those in need this holiday season, Attorney General Jack Conway wants to make sure charitable donations end up where they are needed most and not in the hands of scam artists.
“Donations to reputable charitable organizations can help clothe a child or put food on the table for a struggling family,” General Conway said. “Unscrupulous or fraudulent charities not only take advantage of the kindness of hard-working Kentuckians, they deprive those who need our help. If you plan to give to a charitable organization over the holidays, please make sure to give wisely.”
Much like storms and natural disasters, the season of giving brings out the best and worst in people. Scam artists are working overtime to devise new schemes to take advantage of the generosity of others.
Many scammers use a technique called phishing to gain access to someone’s secure information. This is often done through emails that appear to come from a legitimate organization. Phishing emails may contain links to websites that are infected with malware that enable the scammer to gain access to user names, passwords, Social Security numbers and other personal data.
General Conway asks that you take the following precautions to ensure that your charitable donation makes a difference in the life of someone in need. Tips for Giving Wisely
Donate to charities you know and trust. Be cautious of sound-alike charities and solicitors unable to answer questions. Beware of unsolicited email requests that appear to come from a legitimate charity- they may actually be phishing scams designed to gain access to passwords, credit card data and personal information. Where possible, make donations by check or credit card rather than cash. Don’t be pressured into making a donation. Ask if the charity or solicitor is registered with the Office of the Attorney General. Ask for identification and written information when you’re approached in person. Always ask what percentage of your dollar goes to the cause. Do your research! Research a charity through ag.ky.gov/consumer
Naughty or Nice?
Attorney General Conway encourages Kentuckians to utilize his charitable giving database to research a charity before making a donation. The database at http://goo.gl/tdzbj lists which charities have registered with the Office of the Attorney General and their status.
Consumers also have the ability to find out what percentage of their charitable donation actually goes to the charity and what percentage goes to a paid solicitor.
In 2009, General Conway’s Office participated in “Operation False Charity,” a nationwide crackdown on fraudulent charitable solicitors claiming to help police, firefighters and veterans. Kentucky joined the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 47 other states in reaching an agreement with the United States Deputy Sheriff’s Association (USDA) and its solicitor, Courtesy Call, Inc., to end deceptive charitable solicitations.
Additionally, the Attorney General’s office joined with more than 30 other states in investigating and reaching a comprehensive consent judgment against professional solicitor, Community Support, Inc. (CSI). The allegations against CSI included that it misrepresented the amount of a donation that actually goes to the charitable organization, misled donors to believe their donations would be used only in Kentucky and failed to disclose to donors that the person calling was a paid solicitor with CSI.
If you have been a victim of a consumer scam, contact the Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-888-432-9257 or visit ag.ky.gov/consumer.