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Do Your Research Before Donating

Tuesday December 8, 2015

The Southern Missouri Consumer Fraud Task Force is cautioning Missourians to research charities before making a donation.  “We want to make sure that the charity you are supporting is a tax-exempt organization and not a scam,” said Lew Polivick, Interim Executive Director, Legal Services of Southern Missouri (LSSM).  Most charities are soliciting year-end donations for their causes.  These charities use the phone, face-to-face contact, email, the internet and mobile devices to solicit and obtain donations.  Scammers use these same methods to take advantage of your goodwill. 

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are more than 1.5 million tax-exempt organizations, of which more than 1 million are public charities.  “We recommend you follow a checklist of researching websites such as Guide Star, Give Well, Charity Navigator, Give and Charity Watch.  These websites provide a wealth of information and will analyze and rate charities to varying degrees.  Also, most nonprofits are required to file a Form 990 yearly with the Internal Revenue Service which provides a wealth of information regarding the charity,” added Mr. Polivick.

The Southern Missouri Consumer Fraud Task Force recommends you ask for detailed information about the charity including the exact name, address and telephone number of the charity; check the Missouri Secretary of State website to verify the charity is registered with the state; contact the Better Business Bureau; keep a record of your donation; know the difference between “tax exempt” and “tax deductible”; never send cash donations; never wire money to the charity; and never share personal information.  When making a donation online, be sure that the “https” precedes the website in your browser’s address bar as the “s” indicates use of a more secure protocol.  Most if not all browsers will display a locked padlock icon when you navigate to a secure site.

The Southern Missouri Consumer Fraud Task Force is represented by LSSM, the Better Business Bureau, Consumer Credit Counseling of Springfield, Greene County Sheriff’s Department, Greene County Prosecutor’s Office, Missouri Attorney General, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, FBI, Springfield Police Department, Branson Police Department and the Federal Trade Commission.