The holiday season is here. Please see the following advisory issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Charities depend on the generosity of donors to support them for various causes and purposes. Many charitable organizations use your donations wisely; however, some may misrepresent their fund raising intentions or solicit for phony causes. Keep these tips in mind before making a donation:
Watch out for Scams
Scammers take advantage of people by pretending to be a real charity in order to commit fraud. Frequently, bogus charities will exploit a recent natural disaster or tragedy, promising to use the donations to aid victims. It is important not to judge a charity solely on its name. Many organizations may use names similar to well-known charities and organizations.
Check out a Charity Before Donating
Ask the charity or organization why it is asking for donations and what purpose will be served. Florida law gives the prospective donor the right to request and receive a copy of a charity’s financial report before donating. You can also use our Check-A-Charity tool at FreshFromFlorida.com to view a charity’s financial information and current registration status, or call 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352). Be aware that many telephone appeals for funds are made by paid solicitors, not volunteers. Telemarketing is expensive and may entail substantial fund raising costs. Ask the solicitor what portion of your donation will be retained by the charity.
Avoid High Pressure Tactics
Some solicitors use high-pressure tactics and may even offer to send a “runner” to pick up your money immediately. Don’t feel forced to make a quick decision without getting all the information you need to make an informed decision. Reputable charities and organizations are just as happy to receive your donation tomorrowas today. If you decide to make a donation; never send cash. Typically, it is best to pay by check, made payable to the charity itself, not to the solicitor. If you decide to make a donation online, look for indicators that the site is secure, such as a URL that begins with “https:” (the “s” stands for “secure”).
Keep Good Records
Always obtain and save a printed copy of your donation or a receipt showing the amount of the contribution. Not all organizations soliciting in the name of benevolence are true charities eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. If this is important to you, ask about the organization’s federal and state eligibility for receiving tax deductible donations. Typically, such donations fall under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).
All charities soliciting within Florida (excluding religious, educational, political and governmental agencies) are required to register and file financial information with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. If a professional solicitor is requesting a donation on behalf of a charity, the solicitor also must be registered with the department and should be able to provide you with their registration number. Visit Check-A-Charity online at FreshFromFlorida.com to view a charity’s financial information and current registration status, or call 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352).
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the state’s clearinghouse for consumer complaints, protection and information. Consumers who believe fraud has taken place can contact the department’s consumer assistance center at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352), 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) en Español or visit FreshFromFlorida.com.
Wishing you a happy, safe, secure holiday season. We are committed to your privacy, safety, and security. Contact us now for your free consultation 888 737 – 7690