TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Pam Bondi warns Floridians to be aware of charity scams in the wake of Nepal’s destructive earthquake. On April 25, a magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck Nepal devastating the region and killing more than 5,000 people. Relief efforts are underway to assist victims of this tragedy. Some of these emergent relief charities could be scams intended to take advantage of the situation.
“Unfortunately, scammers will use any opportunity to prey on the good intentions of generous Floridians to steal donations,” said Attorney General Bondi. “If you plan to give, please verify that the charity you are donating to is a legitimate organization.”
Tips to avoid scams and ensure donations go to legitimate charities:
· Never give credit card numbers or bank account information to a caller on the phone or someone who sent an unsolicited email. If interested in donating to a charity that has initiated contact, ask them to send a pledge form and information about the charity in the mail;
· Avoid solicitors that use high-pressure tactics to convince donations;
· Watch for similar sounding charities. It is not unusual for scam artists to choose names that sound like the names of legitimate, widely-known charities;
· Check to see if the charity is registered with the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at FreshFromFlorida.com or call 1-800-HELP-FLA. Also, contact the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at 703-276-0100 to check if the charity has received any complaints;
· Research and review the solicitation carefully to understand how much of the donation will actually go towards the work of the charity as opposed to administrative expenses. Charities are required to register with the DACS and report the breakdown of their financial spending. To learn more, please go to FreshFromFlorida.com and click on the Florida Charities Gift Givers’ Guide; and
· Check with the Internal Revenue Service to see if the tax-exempt organization filed an annual return or notice with the IRS. IRS requires automatic revocation of a charity’s tax exempt status if it fails to file a return for three consecutive years.
Publication of an organization’s name on the Auto-Revocation list helps potential donors determine the status of a charity. To learn more, go to IRS.gov and search the Charities and Non-Profits topics.
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