Americans' hearts going out to the victims of the marathon bombing in Boston, which means, of course, con artists will have to take advantage of that. The Federal Trade Commission is warning people to be leery of charity solicitations from telemarketers.
The agency advises people to:
-- Ask for the charity's name if the telemarketer doesn't provide it immediately. (This alone should be a warning sign if the solicitor isn't forthcoming)
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-- Find out what percentage of your gift will go to the cause.
-- Make sure the charity has approved of this solicitation.
-- Don’t give your credit card or bank information to the telemarketer until you have screened the solicitation with the charity.
-- Don't give cash. Write a check made out to the charity — not the telemarketer.
-- Make sure you get a receipt and that it states your donation is tax deductible.
All good advice. But really, if you are going check up on a telemarketer by contacting the charity anyway, why not just give directly to the organization?
Better yet, if you want to give, go to a charity you know is legit and donate. That way you don't have to worry whether the middleman calling you out of the blue is honest or not, or how much of your money is pocketed by the solicitor.
If you're not aware of a charity to give to, beware of searching online. Fake charities often adopt similar names to the real thing, and you could be directed to a bad actor. And avoid clicking on solicitations pouring in via anonymous email.
To find a legitimate charity, check out websites that rate these nonprofits, including Charitynavigator.org, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance at bbb.org/charity and the American Institute of Philanthropy's charitywatch.org.
Charity Navigator and the BBB have a special section on their sites for donations to the Boston bombing victims.