CHARLESTON (WVDN) – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is encouraging consumers to think before they open their wallet for just any charity this holiday season.
The advice comes as part of the attorney general’s Holiday Consumer Protection Week.
“Many people get into the holiday spirit by giving to charities, but before donating, make sure the money will actually support the desired cause,” Morrisey said. “Charities may also seek donations more actively this time of year but beware of those who may prey upon the goodwill of others.”
Anyone with questions about the legitimacy of a charity or organization can go to the Secretary of State’s website to see if the charity is registered to solicit donations in West Virginia. Consumers may also research the charity on websites such as CharityNavigator.org or GuideStar.org.
Those interested in knowing if a donation is tax-deductible can access the U.S. Internal Revenue Service’s Tax Exempt Organization Search at https://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/.
Those making an online contribution should make sure the website starts with https:// when visiting the donation portal. This verifies a secure connection, making it less likely for personal information to be stolen.
Additional tips to keep in mind during the season of giving are:
- Never feel pressured to donate immediately.
- Be wary of charities that ask for donations in cash or via wire transfer.
- If the organization is unfamiliar, gather as much information as possible and do research.
- Scams may use sympathetic-sounding names that are similar to the names of legitimate charities.
- Be suspicious if an organization will not give additional information about its mission, how donations are used or proof that a contribution is tax deductible.
- If a donation request is for a local chapter of an organization, verify it is authorized to solicit funds on behalf of the parent organization.
- Go directly to the charity or organization’s website instead of clicking on a link to the desired group.
- Keep records. Contributions exceeding $250 should result in a returned letter confirming the charitable status of the organization as well as the amount of the donation.
- Anyone who believes they have been the victim of a scam should contact the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808 or www.ago.wv.gov