Secretary Kemp Warns Consumers about Potential Scams Following the Recent Disaster in Haiti
Atlanta—Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp today offered advice to individuals planning to donate to charities in response to the recent earthquake in Haiti. Secretary Kemp serves as Georgia’s chief charities regulator.
“During a time when so many want to help provide for those in need, it is crucial to ensure the consumer’s donations are received by legitimate organizations,” Secretary Kemp said. “It is important for individuals to research a charity before donating to verify that the charity is legitimate, that it is in compliance and that their generous gifts are being used for the stated cause.”
Secretary Kemp issued the following tips for charitable giving:
- It is important to research charities before you contribute. The percentage of your contribution that a charity spends on fundraising activities, employee salaries, or expenses which do not directly support the charity’s stated mission varies greatly by organization.
- A number of online resources can help you research charities. The Better Business Bureau (give.org) and GuideStar (guidestar.org) provide detailed information about nonprofit organizations. Also, take time to review the organization’s own website.
- In addition, many charities must register with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. You can research charities at the Secretary of State's website (sos.georgia.gov/securities).
- Be wary of telephone solicitors asking for contributions. If you are solicited by phone, ask that the individual put their request in writing and provide complete information about the charitable program. Also, ask if the person conducting the solicitation is a volunteer or a paid solicitor.
- NEVER give your credit card, debit card or bank account information to a telephone solicitor. Also, be particularly cautious of couriers willing to rush out to your home or business to pick up your contribution.
- If a tax deduction is important to you, make sure the organization has a tax deductible “501(c)” status with the IRS. The IRS website (irs.gov/charities) has a searchable database of organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. Make sure you get a receipt which shows the amount of your contribution and states that the contribution is tax deductible.
- Many charitable solicitors ask for contributions of clothing, other household items and vehicles. IRS rules concerning valuations and receipts have changed significantly in recent years; be sure you understand them completely (irs.gov/charities/contributors).
- Not all organizations with charitable sounding names are actually charities. Many organizations adopt names confusingly similar to well-known charities. Be sure you know exactly who is asking for your contribution.
- Watch out for organizations that use questionable techniques such as sending unordered merchandise or invoices after you have turned them down for a donation. You are under no obligation to pay for or return items received under these circumstances.
Citizens can file a complaint against a charitable organization on the Secretary of State’s Securities and Business Regulation Division website: http://www.sos.ga.gov/securities.
Anyone with questions can call the Georgia Secretary of State’s Securities and Business Regulation Division, which oversees charities, at (404) 656-3920.
Brian Kemp was sworn in as Secretary of State in January 2010. Among the office’s wide-ranging responsibilities, the Secretary of State is charged with conducting efficient and secure elections, the registration of corporations, and the regulation of securities and professional license holders. The office also oversees the Georgia Archives and the Capitol Museum.