Charleston, W.Va. – Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant warned West Virginia citizens today of fraudulent charities who may try to solicit donations following Hurricane Sandy. While there have been no reports of charity scams in West Virginia following the storm, Secretary Tennant said citizens need to know how to protect themselves.
Charities licensed to solicit donations from West Virginians are listed on a searchable database maintained by the Secretary of State’s Office. Secretary Tennant urged citizens to ask questions if contacted by phone – questions like if the charity is licensed to solicit donations by the Secretary of State’s Office and how their donation is going to be used.
“There are so many citizens watching news coverage of Hurricane Sandy and wondering how they can help,” Secretary Tennant said. “We are very caring people, and unfortunately there are people out there who prey on that. If you are contacted by someone over the phone who pressures you into giving or makes you feel guilty if you don’t want to donate, or if they don’t answer the questions you ask, it’s a red flag that they may not be legitimate.”
The database to search for charities can be found here: http://apps.sos.wv.gov/business/charities/index.aspx.
The Secretary of State’s Guide to Charitable Giving has several tips to help citizens protect themselves from fraudulent charities:
- Know your charity: Never give to a charity that you know nothing about and who refuses to answer questions about where your money will go.
- Don’t yield to pressure: Don’t feel as though you must donate immediately
- Demand identification: Ask for identification from both the solicitor and the charity. If the solicitor refuses, hang up immediately.
- Beware the name game: Be wary of crooked charities that have a name similar to a well-respected charity.
- Be prudent when giving your credit card number: Write a check and use the charity’s full name. That way you have a record of the contribution and exactly where your money went.
- When in doubt, do research: Check the Secretary of State’s searchable database.
Not all charities are found on the Secretary of State’s database. The Red Cross, for example, is monitored on the federal level. The Salvation Army is not listed on the charities database because as a religious organization, it is exempt and not required to be registered.