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Don’t Let Charity Scams Spoil Your Charitable Spirit

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PHOTO: THe holidays sees a rise in charities asking for donations. Some telemarketers might ask for credit card numbers over the phone, be very cautious about giving out this type if information.
PHOTO: THe holidays sees a rise in charities asking for donations. Some telemarketers might ask for credit card numbers over the phone, be very cautious about giving out this type if information.
December 3, 2012

CONCORD, N.H. - One sign the holiday season is approaching is the jingling of home phones in New Hampshire by charities asking for donations. Local consumer advocates advise a bit of caution.

Harold Moldoff, a volunteer "Fraud Fighter" with AARP-New Hampshire, says plenty of worthy charities out there deserve help, but there are also scammers and con artists who use ploys such as sound-alike organization names to try to trick people into parting with money.

"With people feeling more generous this time of year, most of us do receive calls for charitable donations. We encourage people who get these calls to do their homework."

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 25 million Americans are victims of consumer fraud each year. Moldoff suggests going on-line to websites such as Charity Navigator to easily confirm if a charity is for real, and to learn how much of a donation will go to those in need.

One way to protect yourself when you get a call is to ask the charity to send you information by mail; don't let yourself be pressured on the phone, Moldoff says.

"Some telemarketers might ask for credit card numbers to process the donation more quickly. Unless the people know who they're dealing with, know it's someone that they've done business with and they're comfortable with, they should not do that."

The Supreme Court has ruled that groups can spend up to 99 percent on administration and still call themselves a "charity." That's why he recommends a call to the New Hampshire Bureau of Charitable Trusts.

"If they make that call and ask questions, they can find out how much of the money they are donating is actually going to the charity, versus how much is going to go into the pockets of the fundraisers hired by the charity."

Moldoff says up to 75 percent of fraud victims are too embarrassed to report the crime. He urges people to let local authorities and groups such as the Better Business Bureau know if they suspect fraud.

The NH Bureau of Charitable Trusts hotline is 603-271-3591.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH