Citizens are encouraged to research charities before making a contribution.
Annapolis, Md (KM) The holidays often bring with them the opportunities to give to charities. But you need do your homework before writing out any checks, or charging contributions to your credit card.
Michael Schlein, Division Administrator for the Office of the Secretary of State in Maryland, says before you make a donation, go on line and some information on that charity. “If the first few things that come back are about problems, that will tell you something,” he says. “If the first few things that come back are their website, or a good rating from a charity rating service, it’s probably a good indicator that they’re all right.”
Citizens can check out Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org) which can give in-depth information on a charitable organization.
Schlein also says another good place to look is the Office of the Secretary of State’s website. “Any charity that’s going to be out there raising money for charitable purposes in Maryland has to registered with our office to do that. That’s by law,” he says.
The charities must maintain that registration each year with the state, and submit a financial report. All of this information will be placed on line for the public to view. (sos.maryland.gov)
One way that charities solicit funds is through making phone calls. Schlein says if you receive a call from an unfamiliar charity, don’t be pressured into giving immediately. “Somebody’s very pushy about giving right away. That’s a red flag. Why does somebody want to push you to give right away without doing any homework? Maybe they’re up to something. Maybe they’re just a pushy telemarketer,” he said “But anybody that’s pushing to give, give, give That good charity they need your money. But if they’re a reputable organization, they’re going to let you check them out.”
He also says be wary of sound-alike organizations. “People are very clever about using names that sound like real charities, but aren’t. And that’s where basic internet research could help you,” says Schlein.
An example from the 1980s is a organization which sprang up called the American Cancer Research Society, which has a similar name to a legitimate charity, the American Cancer Society.
If you think you’ve been scammed by a bogus charity, Schlein says contact the Maryland Secretary of State’s office. “You made a donation, especially if it’s on line, give us a link to the website. Find out where we can find information,” he said. “We always hope it ends up being a real organization, but you never know.”
To contact the Maryland Secretary of State, go on lineto DUInvestigations–[email protected], or call 410-974-5534.
By Kevin McManus