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How to avoid getting ripped off by a fake charity

Many people enjoy donating to charities. Not only does it make people feel good to help others who are less fortunate, but donating also offers tax incentives for those who give. However, those with big hearts may also face big disillusionment when they learn that the supposed charitable foundation they gave money to was nothing but a scam. Before deciding to give money to a charity, a would-be donor needs to keep the following suggestions in mind.

First of all, most charities operating in Florida must register and provide financial information to the state's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Anyone who wants to contribute to a charity would need to request literature from the organization as well as the charitable organization's financial report. If the charity will not or cannot provide this sort of information, chances are it is not legitimate.

Related to this, people need to do a little due diligence on the charities requesting donations. Those who wish to donate to a charity need to ensure they know something about the organization to which they are going to provide money. Anyone with questions about a charitable organization can find information by contacting Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Since many charities, especially scam charities, solicit donations through telephone calls or online, a person should never provide personal or financial information unless he or she is sure the charity is on the up-and-up. Likewise, one should be wary of high-pressure donation requests. Those charities that demand a donation immediately are probably just after one's money as reputable charities will accept donations any time without making the donor feel pressured to give money on the spot.

Many charity scams seem to arise after a large disaster or crop up in the wake of a tragedy. While it is unfortunate that some will exploit other's misfortunes for a quick buck, those who want to help need to ensure their funds will be ultimately provided to those in need. By doing a little research, a donor can ensure the funds he or she provides will go to the appropriate parties. However, those who feel they have been the victim of a scam would need to contact an attorney experienced in charity disputes and litigation to see what can be done about holding the responsible parties accountable and getting their money back.

Source: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, "Charity Scams," 2013

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