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Beware Grinches After Your Charity Donations

December 10, 2010

CHICAGO - The season for charitable giving is now in high gear, and local legal experts say watch out for "grinches" in the form of scammers seeking donations. Illinois residents who spend time on the computer may already be familiar with those fake messages that appear to be from a bank, but are really a "phishing" scheme aimed at their wallet.

Steve Bernas with the Northern Illinois Better Business Bureau says this is the time of the year consumers need to watch out for requests from scammers who sound like nonprofits.

"Really look closely at the name itself and see if it is very similar to a well known charity or if they're just trying to make that quick hit."

Bernas says you can always do a Google search on the name of the so-called charity, followed by the word "scam," to quickly find out if others have been taken in. Checking with www.CharityNavigator.org is helpful, as well.

If you're not so Web-savvy or if they're calling you, Bernas suggests asking for printed material by mail.

"A scam company or non-reputable organization or charity will move on to the next victim. They're not going to send you something in writing."

Bernas says make sure you're satisfied with the company's refund policy and also make sure you get a promise to deliver on time.

"By federal law, if they don't have a date they promise you to ship the item, they have 30 days to ship the product, so that's going to be way beyond Christmas."

Bernas has a couple of other suggestions, too.

"Don't pay anybody cash, and don't send anybody a money order out of the country for an item you can buy here locally."

Check out charities at http://chicago.bbb.org/Charity-Reviews/.



Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL