By Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt
Across Kansas, preparations are underway for the holiday season. Decorations are going up, gifts are being purchased and holiday feasts are being readied. It’s also important to be prepared for the influx of charitable giving requests that often flood our mailboxes, email accounts and phone lines as the year-end approaches.
Just as legitimate charities step up their fundraising efforts during the holiday giving season, scam artists posing as charities will try to get their cut from generous Kansans’ wallets.
The best advice to avoid becoming a victim of a fake-charity scam is to plan ahead. Just as you plan out your budget and decide what gifts to buy for your loved ones, plan ahead of time how much you plan to give to charities and research the organizations you are considering giving to. Don’t wait for the phone to ring or the solicitation email to show up in your inbox. Most charities soliciting in Kansas are required to register with the Secretary of State’s office. You can check to see if the charity is registered and also find out how much of the charity’s funds go to the charitable purpose, rather than to overhead and fundraising expenses, by visiting www.kscharitycheck.org. Please note, many religious organizations are not required to register.
Here are some more tips to help you give safely:
- Support local, established charities. While there are many large, international organizations that do great work, your donations can often have a greater impact when they support a cause close to your community, where you can see the results of your donations.
- Ask if your donation is tax deductible. Not all donations to charities are tax deductible. You can check a charity’s status with the IRS at www.irs.gov. When in doubt, double-check with your tax preparer before assuming a donation will be tax deductible.
- Document your donation. Make the donation by credit card or check – not cash. If you pay by check, make the check payable directly to the organization, not to the fundraiser soliciting the donation. Ask for a receipt to show the amount of the donation and if you specified your donation toward a specific project.
If you suspect a charity scam or fraud, or any other violation of charitable solicitation laws, you can file a complaint with our Consumer Protection Division online at www.InYourCornerKansas.org or by calling (800) 432-2310. You also can visit our website for more safe giving tips to help you stay safe this holiday season.