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Attorney general provides tips to ‘Giving Tuesday’ donors

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at his office

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at his office on Broadway, Sept. 19, 2017. Credit: Jeff Bachner

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is urging New Yorkers participating in Giving Tuesday to take steps to make sure their donations are getting in the right hands.

Giving Tuesday encourages charitable donations as families focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

“Giving Tuesday is a wonderful opportunity for New Yorkers to give back to those in need here in New York and around the globe,” Schneiderman said. “If you plan on giving, follow our tips to ensure that your generous donations are going to reputable organizations.”

The attorney general’s suggestions include:

  • Take time to research the organization. Make sure you are familiar with the organization, its mission, and its effectiveness before giving. Always ask for information in writing — and be wary if an organization will not provide information about charitable programs and finances upon request. Consult charitiesnys.com to ensure that it is registered and to learn more about its mission and finances. Online platforms that host groups and individuals soliciting for causes do not vet those who use their service. Donors should find out whether a charity has authorized the campaign and if their contribution is tax deductible. Online platforms can be reached through their “Contact Us” button. You can also check out the site’s policy statements to see how the process and fees work.
  • Know where your money will go. Find out from the charity what it will do with your money. Review the charity’s financial reports for information about how it spends donations. If you have been contacted by a telemarketer, review Pennies for Charity — the annual report of telemarketing campaigns in New York — to see how much is spent on fundraising costs and how much has been kept by the charity.
  • Don’t be pressured by telemarketers. If you receive a telephone call asking you to contribute to a charity, you have the right to hang up. Often the caller is a professional fundraiser who is being paid to call you. If you choose to consider the caller’s request, ask how much of your donation will go to charity and if the telemarketer is being paid. Many telemarketing companies receive most of the money they raise. Be wary of claims such as “all proceeds will go to charity.” Telemarketers are required to respond truthfully to your questions. Don’t fall for pressure tactics such as repeated phone calls or threats. These are signs that the organization may not be legitimate. Always remember you have the right to say no to any charitable request.
  • Ask to be put on a ‘Do Not Call’ list. You have the right to request to be placed on the telemarketer’s Do Not Call list. It is not illegal for telemarketers for charities to call telephone numbers on the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry, but consumers can stop such calls by telling telemarketers not to call them on behalf of specific charities. Telemarketers are required to honor such requests. You may also ask a charity to take you off its solicitation list.
  • Be wary of deceptive tactics and emotional appeals. Watch out for charities with names that resemble those of prominent or established organizations — especially on days designated to charitable giving. Some charities use names similar to well-known charities to confuse donors. Be wary of emotional appeals that talk about problems, but are vague on how donations will be spent.
  • Don’t disclose personal information. Never give your social security number or other personal information in response to a charitable solicitation. Never give out credit card information over the phone or to an organization you are not familiar with.
  • If donating online or via text, donate securely. Always make sure that you are using secure methods of payment. When donating online, make sure the website is secure and includes “https” in the web address. Before hitting “send” on a text donation, check the charity’s website or call the charity to make sure contributions by text message are authorized. Some text solicitations are scams. Also, remember that donating by text means the organization may not receive the funds until after a phone bill is paid; contributions made directly to a charity can reach them faster.
  • Never give cash. Give your contribution by check made payable to the charity. The following websites provide information that help to evaluate charities’ general performance: Charity Navigator, www.charitynavigator.org;CharityWatch, www.charitywatch.org;Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, www.bbb.org; GuideStar, www.guidestar.org. If you believe an organization is misrepresenting its work, or that a scam is taking place, you can email the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau at charities.complaints@ag.ny.gov or call 212-416-8401.

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