Charleston, W.Va. – A sagging economy and people looking to take advantage of the generosity of West Virginians could make for a “perfect storm” of charity fraud this holiday season.
Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant is urging people to be more vigilant when they give to charity this year.
She is calling the initiative “Charity Clarity.”
|Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant addresses reporters Monday in the Business and Licensing Section. She is joined by, from left, Andrew Beckner of Union Mission, Karin Fuller of Charleston Gazette Charities, Business and Licensing Section Manager Penney Barker, and Charity Specialist Jennifer Twyman.
Tennant is concerned that with more people relying on charitable organizations and more people looking to help their neighbors in need, a fraudulent charity could try to run a scam.
She said there are easy ways to keep from becoming a victim of a fraudulent charity. When contacted on the phone or in person, always ask first if the organization is registered with the Secretary of State’s Office.
Organizations that solicit donations from West Virginians must register with the Secretary of State’s office. Organizations that are monitored on the national level, such as the Salvation Army, do not have to register. Charities that do not expect to raise over $25,000 a year also do not have to register.
Speaking Monday in the Business and Licensing Section of the Secretary of State’s Office, where charities are monitored, Tennant also asked people to know who they are donating to, know how a charity spends their money, to not yield to high pressure or emotional pleas for money, don’t fall for fast talk, and beware of charities that try to sound like more well known organizations.
“There are so many tools that are available to the people who want to help their fellow West Virginians,” Tennant said. “You can log on to our website, and see all 2,600 licensed charities in the state. You can see how much they took in and how they spent it. That’s valuable to not only know that a charity is legitimate, but that you are donating to a charity that is spending money wisely.”
Tennant was joined by Andrew Beckner of the Union Mission and Karin Fuller of the Charleston Gazette Charities. Members of the Secretary of State Investigations Unit also stood with Tennant in urging caution.
“One thing I want to make clear is that my office will take very seriously any allegation of charity fraud,” Tennant said. “West Virginians are caring people, and we can’t allow that wonderful trait to be exploited.”
The online database is available at www.wvsos.com. According to the database, West Virginians donated more than $730 million to charities in the last year. Those same charities disbursed more than $811 million in the same time period. The database also lists expired charities. Potential donators can also see which charities disbursed 100% of donations on programs in West Virginia.