Most people love the idea of giving back, when they can. The earthquake in Haiti is such a time, but with so many charities asking for donations it can be hard to know which ones are legitimate and which aren’t.

In an effort to expose organization’s that prey on our generosity, the Federal Trade Commission conducted it’s first “Operation False Charity” sweep this past year. They found that some charities spent as little as 10% of their budget on their supposed mission.

Fraudulent charities are especially active during natural disasters so expect to start getting phone calls or emails asking you to donate to Haiti’s earthquake relief.

Here are the FTC’s tips on how to tell a legitimate charity from a scam:

  • High pressure pitches. Reject them: It’s okay to hang up.
  • A thank you for a pledge you don’t remember making. Be skeptical; scam artists will lie to get your money.
  • Requests for cash. Avoid giving cash donations.

  • Charities that offer to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect your money.
  • Charities that guarantee sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution.

  • Charities that spring up overnight, especially those that involve current events like natural disasters, or those that claim to be for police officers, veterans, or firefighters.They probably don’t have the infrastructure to get your donations to the affected area or people.

Here is what you should ask of a suspicious charity:

  • Ask for the charity’s name, address, and phone number, and written information about its programs.

  • Ask whether the person contacting you is a professional fundraiser and how much of your contribution will go to fundraising costs.


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