SEATTLE - They're about to start again -- those
end-of-the-year charity calls. The people making them are often
professional telemarketers, who can be very persuasive.
With a phone pitch, it's hard to know who you're really dealing with
and how much of your donation is really going to the charity. Of
course, the caller could be a con artist who's just trying to steal
It's not unusual for a telemarketer to keep 90 percent or more of
the money raised. I've seen the figures and it's appalling. People
who've responded to a pitch and donated $100 actually gave $3 to the
charitable cause. Of course, they never knew it.
Here's my advice, based on years of talking to victims of charity
scams. If you have any interest in the cause, ask them to send you
written material. That will give you time to check them out before
you hand over your money.
The following tips are from the National Consumers League's Internet
If you're approached by an unfamiliar charity, check it out. Most
states require charities to register with them and file annual
reports showing how they use donations.
Ask your state or local consumer protection agency how to get this
information. The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance also
offers information about national charities. Call (703) 276-0100 or
go to www.give.org
Be cautious about e-mails seeking charitable contributions. Many
unsolicited e-mail messages are fraudulent.
Beware of sound-alikes. Some crooks try to fool people by using
names that are very similar to those of well-known charities.
Ask how donations are used. One of the most important things to
consider is how much of your money goes to fundraising and
administrative costs, rather than to the charitable work itself.
Be wary of requests to support police or firefighters. Some
fraudulent fundraisers claim that donations will benefit police or
firefighters, when in fact little or no money goes to them. Contact
your local police or fire department to find out if the claims are
true and what percentage of donations, if any, they will receive.
By Herb Weisbaum Listen