DeWine offers charitable giving tips


COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine offered recommendations to help Ohioans make wise charitable contributions and avoid scams related to the flooding and damage caused by Hurricane Florence.

“We encourage Ohioans to be generous and to help those in need,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We also encourage them to be cautious when evaluating charitable donation requests. When tragedy strikes, there is the potential for scams, unfortunately, and con artists will take advantage of the generosity of others and use donations for themselves.”

Attorney General DeWine offered the following recommendations for charitable giving:

Carefully review donation requests. Do some research to make sure your donation will be used as intended. After a natural disaster, some sham charities may pop up to take advantage of people’s generosity. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on social media have been vetted. Check them independently. The first request you find may not be the best.

Evaluate charities using resources such as the Ohio Attorney General’s Office (or the offices of other state attorneys general), IRS Select Check, Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and GuideStar.

Beware of “look-alike” websites or accounts. Be skeptical of charities or groups with names that sound similar to well-known organizations. They may be intended to confuse donors. If you receive a message from an organization asking for a donation, confirm that the request truly is from the organization, and not an impostor, by contacting the organization directly or visiting its website.

Be careful when giving to newly formed charities. Some charities that are formed shortly after a natural disaster or tragedy have good intentions but lack the experience to properly handle donors’ contributions. Established charities are more likely to have experience to respond following a tragedy and to have a track record that you can review.

Check out crowdfunding campaigns before donating. If you want to make a contribution using a crowdfunding or peer-to-peer fundraising site, find out how your donation will be used before donating. Try to determine which campaigns are legitimate and supported by those close to the tragedy and which haven’t been vetted. (Some people ask for donations claiming to help victims but ultimately keep the money for themselves.) Also consider how much of your donation will go to the website itself or whether you will be charged any fees for making the donation. Find out how the website will use your personal information. Be wary of sites that don’t provide a privacy policy.

Review claims carefully. Some groups may sell merchandise online and claim that “100 percent of the proceeds” will benefit a specific charitable purpose, but this claim does not necessarily mean 100 percent of the sales price will go toward the cause. Contact the organization to ask how much of each purchase will support the cause. If the organization cannot give you an answer, consider donating another way.

Contact a charity before raising money on its behalf. If you want to set up a fundraiser for a particular charity, contact the organization in advance and determine how you can properly collect donations.

Signs of a potential charity scam include high-pressure tactics; no details about how your donation will be used; refusal to provide written information about the charity; organizations with names that sound similar to other better-known organizations; requests for donations made payable to a person instead of a charity; offers to pick up donations immediately versus in the mail or online.

Those who suspect a charity scam or questionable charitable activity should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office investigates and takes enforcement action against charitable fraud.