by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt
The holiday season is once again upon us. As we gather with our families to give thanks for our blessings over the past year, it is also the time of year we especially think of those in need.
Kansans are generous, giving people, with both their time and money. Whether it is volunteering time to serve your community or donating money to a worthy cause, these efforts make Kansas a great place to live.
Unfortunately, while there are many fine charitable organizations in our state worthy of our support, there are also scam artists who know that this is a tempting time of year to take advantage of Kansans’ giving spirit. Here are some helpful hints to make sure your donations go to support a good cause, not to a scammer’s pocket:
• Be cautious. Scammers often take advantage of recent tragedies to lure you into giving to a fake charity. Recently our office has received reports of solicitations for Ebola relief and help for areas hit by natural disasters. Instead of giving over the phone, ask them to send you information in writing so you can verify that the charity is legitimate.
• Plan your giving. Make a list of charitable organizations you want to support and a budget for how much you plan to give each organization. Do not wait for a solicitation to come by mail or the telephone and get pressured into making a donation.
• Do your homework. Take the time to research the organizations you are interested in. Most charitable organizations in the state are required by law to register with the Secretary of State’s Office. You can check a charity’s registration online at www.KsCharityCheck.org. On that website, you will also find helpful information about the organization, including how much of the money it raises goes to support the charitable purpose and how much is spent on fundraising expenses.
• Check with your tax preparer. If you’re planning on taking a tax deduction for your contribution, check with your tax preparer to make sure the organization qualifies to receive tax-deductible contributions.
• Document the transaction. Keep records of how much you donated and where you sent the check. Always give by check or credit card so the transaction can be traced. Never wire funds or send money on prepaid “cash cards.” Once money is sent by these methods, it is almost impossible to get it back.
For more safe giving tips, or to report a suspicious charity, visit the attorney general’s consumer protection website at www.InYourCornerKansas.org, or call 800-432-2310.