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Consumers Warned: 'Tis the Season of Giving, and Taking

Coloradans can avoid scams by researching groups before making end-of-year contributions. (CentralITAlliance/iStockphoto)
Coloradans can avoid scams by researching groups before making end-of-year contributions. (CentralITAlliance/iStockphoto)
December 16, 2016

DENVER - The season of giving is in full swing, and it's also the time when many Coloradans make end-of-year tax-deductible donations to their favorite nonprofits. Out of 13,000 registered charities in Colorado, 2,000 have been prohibited from soliciting contributions.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said scam artists sometimes create fake charities to steal from unsuspecting donors.

"It's great to be generous and to donate to a cause that is near and dear to your heart," she said. "Just make sure you know where your money is going. Take time to do a little bit of research and be certain that the charity you're giving to is registered with the state."

Nearly 80 percent of Colorado adults made a charitable donation in the last year, according to a recent AARP Foundation survey, and most respondents did not know how to tell if a group was legitimate or not.

Coffman encourages people to visit checkthecharity.com, which outlines each organization's mission, leadership and tax-exempt status.

Charities and nonprofits do work that fills critical gaps left by the marketplace and government, and they depend on individual contributions to keep their doors open. The Colorado Nonprofit Association found the sector contributes more than $2 billion to the state's economy and is its third largest employer. Coffman encouraged people to make educated contributions.

"Coloradans are incredibly generous. We give a lot to charity each year. This is the way that we take care of our community," she said. "If folks can't necessarily go out and volunteer their time, they can give dollars to support those who can."

The Attorney General's office has launched a Consumer Holiday Guide, at stopfraudcolorado.gov, and the Secretary of State also publishes an annual report showing how much of a group's overall spending is devoted to services compared with fundraising and overhead.

A report is online at stopfraudcolorado.gov.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO