Department of Consumer Protection warns consumers about holiday charity scam
Over the past year, the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) has processed nearly 150 complaints specifically related to charities, which is a sharp increase from previous years largely due to DCP’s outreach and education charities regarding proper registration.
During such a busy time of year where consumers are eager to give back — DCP wants to make sure consumers are prepared to say no to scams or bad deals, and reputable charities are appropriately registered.
“We understand that consumers want to give back to their communities, and we encourage them to. That said, it’s important for consumers to do their research on charities ahead of a time, and make a giving plan this holiday season,” said Consumer Protection Commissioner, Jonathan A. Harris, “We want to make this process easy for consumers, so in addition to going after bad actors, we have also been proactively working with new or smaller charity organizations to make sure they’re registered appropriately. That way, we can spend more of our valuable time on the sham charities that are stealing consumers’ hard earned cash.”
DCP encourages consumers to make a plan for giving this season, and stick to it in order to protect their finances, avoid falling victim to a scams, or giving to charities who misrepresent how they’re using a consumers hard earned money
Here are some tips that consumers can follow in order to protect themselves:
How can consumers spot a charity scam?
A scammer will:
- Refuse to give you details about its identity, mission, costs or how your money will be used
- Not give you proof that your donation is tax deductible
- Use a name that is similar to a well-known charity to impersonate them
- Thank you for a pledge that you do not remember making, and ask for more money
- Pressure you to donate right away
- Ask for donations in cash or via a wire transfer
- Offer to send a delivery service to pick-up the donation immediately
- Promise you a sweepstakes winning in exchange for the donation. (You never have to give money to be eligible for a sweepstake).
What can consumers do?
- If a phone caller or door to door sales person displays the traits listed above, hang up the phone, or don’t engage. We understand consumers want to be polite, but if you don’t engage, you don’t get scammed.
Research a charity
- Get the exact name of the charity so you can research them if you’re considering giving
- Verify that a charity is registered appropriately at elicense.ct.gov
- Search the name of the charity online with the word “scam” or “complaint”
- Do some research on the charity’s reputation with the Better Business Bureau, Charity Watch or Guidestar.
- Learn how the charity spends its money with Charity Navigator.
Make a plan
- Make a plan for giving each giving season by researching charities you trust, and reviewing your budget.
- Stick to your plan. If a charity OR a scammer sends you a solicitation that doesn’t fall inside of your plan — don’t adjust what you have already planned at the last minute.
Consumers may file a complaint regarding a charity at email@example.com, and charities with registration questions may email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 860-713-6100 or Toll-Free in CT at 800-842-2649.