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Attorney General's News Release

December 15, 2011

Attorney General Koster offers consumers pointers to avoid holiday charity scams

Jefferson City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster today cautioned consumers to beware of holiday charity scams and offered tips to make sure their money is going to a legitimate charity.

“The generosity of Missourians is truly heartwarming, and though most charities do tremendous work and spend donations wisely, there are those that actually do little to help those they claim to support,” Koster said. “Unfortunately, the holiday season is a time when scam artists prey on the generosity of donors and use the opportunity to set up fake charities for their own profit.”

Koster said there are steps you can take to make sure you are not a victim of the scam artists:

  • Be aware of charities that use emotional appeals for fundraising. Some key topics to look for are the use of children or mention of recent disasters, like tornadoes or earthquakes.
  • Do not give to a charity that contacts you by phone. If you would like to donate to the charity, ask for a mailing address to mail your donation directly. Be sure to check out their website.
  • Ask the charity what percentage of your contribution goes directly to the charity and what percentage goes to overhead. Ask if the caller is a professional fundraiser.
  • When in doubt, call the charity yourself and ask if they are aware of the solicitations being done in their name. Many cases have been reported of unauthorized fundraising activity. Some of your money may end up in the hands of the needy, but only after the solicitors “bills” have been paid.
  • If the charity claims it will support local organizations, call those organizations to verify that statement. Phony charities often use the names of places in area codes they’re calling so people think their contributions support local causes. Most people like to help local organizations, especially during the holidays, and scam artists will not hesitate to take advantage of your kindness. While the Attorney General wants you to support your local charities, be careful of falling for these types of scams over the phone.
  • Do not provide credit card or bank account information until you have reviewed all the information from the charity and made the decision to donate. Never give personal information over the telephone.
  • Ask for a receipt showing the amount contributed and indicating it is tax deductable. Keep in mind that contributions made to “tax exempt” organizations are not necessarily tax deductable.
  • Make your contributions by check. It is a more secure method. Also, make your checks payable to the charity.

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