Someone contacts you asking for a donation to a charity. It sounds like a group you have heard of, it seems real, and you want to help. Before you give to a charity it is important to do some research. By finding out as much as you can about the charity, you can avoid fraudsters who try to take advantage of your generosity.

Scammers want your money quickly. They often pressure you to donate right away. They may refuse to provide information about the charity or tell you how the money will be used. They might even thank you for a pledge you don’t remember making. To ensure that your donation goes to a legitimate charity, give wisely. The following tips will help to protect you from unwittingly donating to a fraudulent charity or fund-raising organization:

1. Take your time. There should never be a reason to send money right away.

2. Do not donate if a solicitor:

  • Does not answer basic questions about the charity.
  • Uses high-pressure tactics to obtain your donation.
  • Insists on payment by cash rather than by check.
  • Insists on sending someone to pick up your donation rather than letting you mail it in.

3. Before donating to an organization, take the following steps:

  • Ask that the organization to send you written information, including the  charity’s name, address, telephone number and other financial information.
  • Never pay in cash. When paying by check, write the full name of the  organization – do not use initials.
  • If you want to make a tax-deductible donation, get a receipt for the amount of your contribution and request a statement that the contribution is tax deductible.
  • If you receive “gifts” such as labels or note cards in mailings from solicitors, you are under no obligation to contribute. You may keep any unsolicited merchandise without donating.

4. Questions to ask before donating:

  • How long has the charity been in operation?
  • Where is the charity headquartered? Does it have local offices? What is the  address and phone number of its local and national offices?
  • What is the primary purpose of the charity? What programs does it offer in your community?
  • What percentage of your donation goes to the charity? 
  • Is the charity registered with the Illinois Attorney General’s office?
  • Will the charity provide a current financial report?

 5. Pay Close Attention to the Group’s Name

Some groups choose organization names similar to well-known charities in an attempt to mislead donors. Be careful of solicitations by charities that have unfamiliar names or do not have programs in Illinois.

  • Police, Firefighter and Professional Fund-Raiser Solicitations – if a solicitor  claims to represent the police or fire department, contact your local law  enforcement or firefighting agency to verify that they are conducting a fund- raising campaign. Some police and firefighter organizations are not charitable.  Instead they are unions or social groups that will not use your donation for  charitable purposes.
  • “Advertising” in so-called “ad books” will probably not reach the general public.
  • Usually, less than 20% of your contribution benefits the police, firefighters or community.
  • Note: If you suspect a fraudulent solicitation, keep notes. Write down the names of the organization and the solicitor. Try to remember the “pitch” as well as any other information you think important.

6. Reporting Charity Fraud

By reporting organizations you suspect are fraudulent, you are potentially helping other people avoid becoming victims.  You can report suspicions of fraud to one of the following organizations:

 Illinois Attorney General’s office:
 Federal Trade Commission:

Cathy Rager
Senior Services Coordinator
Phone: (630) 719-6686

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