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Fraud Alerts

Check Out Charities Before Giving
Thursday, December 15, 2011

It’s that time of year when bells are ringing, folks are singing and charitable organizations are asking for your help. Donating money to charities is a wonderful way to help those less fortunate, but it is the season when scam artists prey on our compassion and generosity. To avoid becoming a victim of a bogus charity scam, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office encourages you to thoroughly check out the charity of your choice before giving. Below are a few tips and questions to consider asking before reaching for your checkbook.

• Use your head, not just your heart. Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion but short on details about what the charity will do to address the needs of recipients.
• Take your time. While you may feel a sense of urgency, don't give in to high-pressure solicitations. Legitimate charities will respect your right to take the time you need to make up your mind.
• Be an informed giver. Don't let anyone talk you into fulfilling a pledge you didn't make. Rather than handing over any money, get the address and name of the charity so you can a mail a check payable to the charity, directly to the charity. If you're not sure about a telephone solicitation, get the charity's phone number so you can call them directly.

• Ask Questions:

1. Who is the “fund” raiser and who benefits from the donation?
2. Does the donation stay in Southwest Florida and if not, where does it go?
3. How much goes to the charities administrative and fund-raising costs? (Generally, more than 50% should go toward the charity).
4. Is the donation tax-deductible, and can you get a receipt?
Ultimately, it is up to each of us to make sure our giving is used wisely, instead of lining the pockets of questionable groups. For detailed reports that rate charities and tell you how your donations are used, go to these national charity watchdog resources:
• www.give.org
• www.charitynavigator.org

For more information on local charities, contact the Better Business Bureau:
• www.bbb.org or call your local BBB.

If you have questions about this or if you have received a call and would like to
report it, please contact the Fraud Hotline at 239-477-1242.