Here are some ways to avoid charity scams

Wednesday, January 5, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:54 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

As Americans raise unprecedented amounts of money for the victims of the tsunami disaster, the Better Business Bureau is cautioning people about scams that attempt to take advantage of people’s eagerness to help.

If you do think that you have been contacted by a phony charity, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and also with the Missouri attorney general’s office.

Here are some recommendations to help ensure that the money you donate goes to the intended recipients.

  • Make sure the charity is registered with the appropriate state department and that it describes exactly what it will do to aid the disaster victims.
  • Ask for written information about the organization and its mission. Also make sure that your donation is tax-deductible, and get a receipt.
  • Some agencies use paid professional fund-raisers who keep a percentage of the proceedings. If people call you asking for donations, ask if they are professional fund-raisers.
  • Watch out for similar sounding names. Scam artists sometimes use the names that look or sound similar to bona fide charities.
  • Check out the agency’s financial information at Also you can check the reputation of the charity with your local Better Business Bureau office or at
  • Avoid cash gifts as cash can be easily stolen or lost. Use checks or money orders and make them to the organization, not to the person soliciting the donation.
  • Be extra careful if donating online as scam artists can copy the name and style of a well-known charity’s Web site to confuse people.

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