By Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt
Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been joined on the calendar by a more recent addition: Giving Tuesday. The Tuesday after Thanksgiving is marked as a special date for charitable organizations to raise funds as part of the holiday season. While many Kansans are generous in supporting worthy causes throughout the year, the holidays in particular are a time to remember those causes we choose to support.
As we often remind folks, though, don’t let a heartwarming sales pitch from a charitable organization cause you to let your guard down. Scam artists are known to take advantage of the generosity of others to make money that doesn’t support a worthy cause, but simply lines their own pocketbooks.
The best thing you can do to protect yourself from falling victim to a charity scam is to start out your holiday giving with a plan. Make a budget of how much you would like to give and which organizations you wish to support. Don’t wait for the phone to ring or the solicitation email to show up in your inbox and catch you unprepared.
Most charities soliciting in Kansas are required to register with the Secretary of State’s office. You can check to see if the charity is registered and also find out how much of the charity’s funds go to the charitable purpose, rather than to overhead and fundraising expenses, by visiting www.kscharitycheck.org. Please note, many religious organizations are not required to register.
Here are some more tips to help you give safely:
- Support local, established charities. While there are many large, international organizations that do great work, your donations can often have a greater impact when they support a cause close to your community, where you can see the results of your donations.
- Ask if your donation is tax deductible. Not all donations to charities are tax deductible. You can check a charity’s status with the IRS at www.irs.gov. When in doubt, double-check with your tax preparer before assuming a donation will be tax deductible.
- Document your donation. Make the donation by credit card or check – not cash, wire transfer or gift card. A charity that asks for payment by wire transfer or gift card is a red flag for scams. If you pay by check, make the check payable directly to the organization, not to the fundraiser soliciting the donation. Ask for a receipt to show the amount of the donation and if you specified your donation toward a specific project.
If you suspect a charity scam or fraud, or any other violation of charitable solicitation laws, you can file a complaint with our Consumer Protection Division online at www.InYourCornerKansas.org or by calling (800) 432-2310. You also can visit our website for more safe giving tips to help you stay safe this holiday season.