The attorney general’s office is urging Illinois residents who want to donate to charitable efforts to help the victims of the devastating tornado in Oklahoma to watch out for fundraising scams by con artists seeking to exploit the disaster for their personal profit. It seems to happen every time there is a natural disaster…scam artists try to take advantage of people’s goodwill. “You see a lot of scams pop up in the wake of these tragedies,” said Natalie Bauer, spokeswoman attorney general’s office.
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Under Illinois law, fundraisers and charitable organizations are required to register each year with the attorney general’s office. To assist potential donors in making wise giving decisions, important information about charitable organizations such as income, expenditures and programs is provided by the attorney general’s office.
Some tips on avoiding such scams include:
Donate to charities you know and trust. Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events such as natural disasters.
Be especially careful online. Make sure the website you are visiting belongs to a legitimate, established and registered charity, and that the website and the charity match. See if other legitimate websites will link to that website. Also, make sure the site is secure.
Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator, GuideStar and the Attorney General’s office.
Be wary of urgent appeals that play on your emotions for aid. Do not donate if the solicitor uses high-pressure tactics, asks for cash payment or insists on sending someone to pick up your donation. These are all hallmarks of a scam.
Ask how much of your donation will go to the charitable work and how much will be used to pay fundraising costs. If you don’t get a clear answer — or if you don’t like the answer you get — consider donating to a different organization.
Never send cash. You can’t be sure the organization will receive your donation, and you won’t have a record for tax purposes. And, don’t give out personal or financial information until you have reviewed all the information from the charity and verified its legitimacy.
Donors are encouraged to contact the attorney general’s Charitable Trust Bureau to report suspicious solicitations at (312) 814-2595. It’s recommended that, if possible, when solicitors call, keep notes detailing the date and time of the call, the organization’s name and the name of the solicitor.