Donor Education and Awareness

The Federal Trade Commission, along with law enforcement officials and charity regulators from 70 offices in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, and Puerto Rico announced more than 100 actions and a consumer education initiative in “Operation Donate with Honor,” a crackdown on fraudulent charities that con consumers by falsely promising their donations will help veterans and service members. The Maryland Secretary of State and Office of the Attorney General have issued a joint press release about the matter.

 

International Charity Fraud Awareness Week, October 22-26, 2018. Follow along all week for tips to avoid charity scams. Give with your head, not your heart. If you were solicited for a donation in Maryland and believe someone is trying to scam you, file a complaint with our office. You may do so by submitting a written complaint to the Maryland Secretary of State. Be sure to include a summary of what occurred and any supporting documentation that you may have. Ways to submit a complaint:

  • By mail: Secretary of State, Attn: Investigator, State House, Annapolis, MD 21401
  • By fax: 410-974-5527 (Attn: Investigator)
  • By email: dlinvestigations_sos@maryland.gov

** Friday, 10/26: Wise Giving/Avoiding Fraud **

  • Choose the cause with your heart; choose the organization with your head. Do your research.
  • Do not give by cash, gift card, or wire transfer.
  • Scammers may spoof your caller ID to make it look like the call is from your area code or from a charity you know.
  • If you want your money to help locally, ask how the charity spends money in your area.
donations-count-graphic.jpg

** Thursday, 10/25: Online Giving/Crowdfunding/Social Media Giving **

Many requests for donations through social media and crowdfunding sites are legitimate, but some are scams. For example, there are people who misuse real pictures and stories of veterans to get you to donate, but the money goes into their own pockets. Crowdfunding sites often have little control over who uses them and how donations are spent. Also, if tax deductions are important to you, remember that donations to individuals are not tax-deductible. Research any charity before you give. Don’t want to give to a charity through a crowdfunding site – go to the charity’s website and donate directly.

Considering donation through a website or social media platform that promises to send your contribution to your chosen charity? That’s a giving portal. Here’s what to look for: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/donating-through-online-giving-portal.

** Wednesday, 10/24: Privacy **

  • Know what personal information you're giving to a charity before you do. Some charities and fundraisers will sell your personal information. If you do not like that a charity sells your information, consider giving to another charity that does not.
  • Do you want to stop receiving direct mail? Tell the charity that in writing. If the charity does not respect your request, give to another charity.
  • If you're donating through a giving portal, check to see if your personal information will be shared with the charity you choose.

** Tuesday, 10/23: Telemarketing **

  • Being on the FTC's "no call list" will not stop a charity from calling.
  • If you feel pressured at all, hang up. You do not have to make a donation or even a pledge to donate on the phone. A good charity will welcome your donation at any time.
  • Questions to ask when you are solicited:

Unless you are already familiar with and support an organization, do not promise you will contribute to its cause when you are called on the phone. Instead, ask:

  • Is the charity registered with the Maryland Secretary of State?
  • What is the full name, address and phone number of the charity?
  • Do you work for the charity or are you a paid fund-raiser?
  • For what purpose will my contribution be used?
  • Is my contribution tax deductible?
  • What percentage of its total income does the charity spend on its charitable purpose?

 

For more information on how to avoid charity scams, visit: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/how-donate-wisely-and-avoid-charity-scams.

** Monday, 10/22: Giving after Natural Disasters **

Giving after Natural Disasters

The FTC has more information on wise giving after a natural disaster. For more information visit:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/09/wise-giving-after-hurricane.

 

 

Watch this video on how to stop veterans charity scams.

Operation - Donate with Honor

  How to donate wisely and avoid scams

Tips for Consumers:

Online Giving:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/donating-through-online-giving-portal

Giving to Charities that help members of the Military:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/giving-organizations-help-military-servicemembers-and-their-families

Giving to Veterans Charities:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/giving-charities-help-veterans

Tips for Businesses:

Online Giving:
https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/online-charitable-giving-portals

For Retailers:
https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/tips-retailers-how-review-charity-requests

Giving Wisely:

What are the registration requirements for charities?

 

What are the registration requirements for charities?

All charitable organizations that either solicit contributions from Maryland citizens or are located in Maryland are required to be registered with the Office of the Secretary of State if:

  • They collect $25,000 or more in direct public support or
  • Engage the services of a professional solicitor to raise funds for the organization.

In addition, any charity not required to complete a full registration is required to file an exempt organization fund-raising notice. Registration, however, does not imply endorsement.

​​​

Who you're giving to?

 

Who you're giving to?

The Charitable Organizations Division has a master list of approximately 13,000 charities. This office can provide information about the purpose of a charity, the amount of money a charity is raising, the percentage of the money collected which is used for charitable program services, and the percentage which is used for administrative costs and fundraising. Inquire about this information.

​​

Questions to ask when you are solicited:

 

Questions to ask when you are solicited:

Unless you are already familiar with and support an organization, do not promise you will contribute to its cause when you are called on the phone. Instead, ask:

  • Is the charity registered with the Secretary of State?
  • What is the full name, address and phone number of the charity?
  • Do you work for the charity or are you a paid fund-raiser?
  • For what purpose will my contribution be used?
  • Is my contribution tax deductible?
  • What percentage of its total income does the charity spend on its charitable purpose?
​​

Questions to ask when examining a written solicitation:

 

Questions to ask when examining a written solicitation:

  • Is the full name, address and phone number disclosed in the material?
  • For what purpose will my contribution be used?
  • Does the organization offer to send me a copy of its financial statement?
  • Does the solicitation disclose that documents and information are available from the Secretary of State's office for the cost of copies and postage?
  • Is the appeal for contributions written in a way that appeals only to my emotions rather than to my intellect as well?
  • Does the appeal sound plausible?

Can I receive a financial report from the charity?

 

Can I receive a financial report from the charity?

Donors are entitled by law to receive a copy of a financial statement from charities which are registered with the Secretary of State. Written solicitations must include a statement that a financial statement is available upon request and must provide the name, address and telephone number of the charity.

Registered charities are required by law to provide a copy of its financial statement to any person who requests one. This request must be answered within 30 days and no charge can be made for this information.

While a summary of this information may be received by a telephone call to the Office of the Secretary of State, it is the charity's legal responsibility to provide copies of its financial statement to members of the public.

What are signs of deceptive practices?

 

What are signs of deceptive practices?

Some charitable solicitations send messages or red flags which might lead a person to question whether this is an organization worthy of support or even whether it really is a charity:

  • Did the organization refuse to send you written material or financial information?
  • Did the person soliciting offer to send a courier to collect your contribution?
  • Did the charity send you an invoice or statement which indicates a payment due for a contribution you never pledged?
  • Does the organization's name and logo closely resemble another charity with a similar charitable purpose?

Donor’s rights:

 

Donor’s rights:

Donors have the right to ask as many questions as necessary to reach a point where an informed decision is possible. Additionally, donors have the right to change their mind after having agreed to make a donation. A pledge to make a contribution is not a legally enforceable agreement.