Attorney General Suthers And Secretary Of State’s Office Warn Citizens About Safe Giving As Coloradoans Reach Out To Assist Those Affected By Hurricane Katrina

DENVER – Colorado Attorney General Suthers and the Secretary of State’s Office advise citizens to beware of giving to fraudulent organizations that may claim to help citizens who have suffered loss from Hurricane Katrina.

“As with previous tragedies, Coloradoans are quickly coming together to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina,” said Attorney General Suthers. “Regrettably, however, we’re already seeing scam artists looking to take advantage of the generosity of our citizens. Whereas most charities are honest organizations, there is a handful looking to take advantage of the goodwill of people who want help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.”

“We caution Coloradoans about donating to charitable organizations that are not registered with our office,” Deputy Secretary of State William A. Hobbs said.  “Coloradoans are extremely generous and will want to make charitable donations to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, but we want them to be cautious with their giving and not fall victim themselves to a charity scam.”

Pursuant to Colorado law, most charitable organizations that raise funds from the public must be registered with the Secretary of State’s office.  To make it easier for citizens to verify that a charity has indeed registered, the Secretary of State’s office has created a searchable database where they can examine the disclosures filed by charities soliciting in Colorado.  Please visit www.sos.state.co.us, and click on the “Licensing Center” for more information and to access the database of registered Colorado charities.

Attorney General Suthers and the Secretary of State’s Office urge citizens to donate to credible charities they have given money to in the past or to familiar charities such as the United Way, the Red Cross, Catholic Charities USA, etc.  Other organizations capable of rendering timely and effective assistance to victims of Hurricane Katrina are listed on the web site of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (www.fema.gov), and on the web site of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (www.nvoad.org).

“So many are in need and our hearts go out to the people whose lives have been altered forever by Hurricane Katrina,” Hobbs said.  “Please do what you can to offer any assistance you can, but be cautious so scam artists do not exploit your generosity for their private gain.  Be especially cautious about e-mail and web site solicitations from unfamiliar charities or individuals.  The safest course is to select an established charity yourself and contact them directly by phone.”

Consumers should report suspected fraudulent charitable solicitations to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office at (303) 894-2200 ext. 6407.

Tips on Wise Giving:

  • Ask for the solicitor’s registration number and the registration number of the charity he or she is representing.
  • Check the charity’s disclosure and financial statements on the Secretary of State’s website.
  • If the charity is required to file the federal form 990 or 990-EZ with the IRS, ask to see it.
  • Ask your tax advisor or the IRS if your donation will be tax-deductible. The fact that a charity has a tax identification number does not necessarily mean your contribution is tax-deductible.
  • Ask the solicitor how much or what percentage of the donation will go to the charity.
  • Be wary if the charity does not want to provide information about its programs and finances.  Reputable charities will gladly provide the information requested.
  • Watch out for charities with names that sound similar to well-known organizations.  Sometimes these sound-alike names are simply intended to confuse donors.
  • Do not pay in cash – donate by check made payable to the charity.
  • If solicited in person, ask to see identification for both the solicitor and the charity.
  • Certain well-known charities such as the Red Cross will never solicit donations over the phone.
  • Beware of unsolicited email. There have already been reports of email that purport to be solicitations from the Red Cross. The emails have links embedded in them that will take you to a fake Red Cross website. Further, such unsolicited email may spread computer viruses. Do not respond to any email soliciting donations from any organization. Instead, go directly to the organization’s website or call to make donations.
  • If you believe that you have been solicited by a fraudulent charity, please file a complaint with the Secretary of State website: http://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/bingo_raffles/charity_complaint_form.pdf or the Attorney General (phone: 1-800-222-4444; website: www.ago.state.co.us/consline/consline.cfm).
  • If you feel uncomfortable simply, say “No thank you.”

 

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