By doing a little research, well-meaning Texans can ensure their dollars actually help the recovery effort and aid victims – rather than funding fraudulent scams set up to capitalize on a tragedy.
Texans who are solicited for charitable contributions to relief efforts by telephone, text message, e-mail, mail, social networking sites or otherwise should consider the following:
• Ensure the relief organization is legitimate. Ask for credentials, including the soliciting entity’s exact name and telephone number, particularly if the purported relief organization is not well known.
• Call the charity directly and confirm that the solicitor is actually working for that organization.
• Watch for questionable charities using names that closely resemble the names of well-known charities.
• Find out how the donation will be used.
• Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion and short on descriptions about how charitable contributions will aid the recovery effort.
• Don’t succumb to high-pressure tactics and demands for an immediate decision. A legitimate charity welcomes background checks on their operations.
• Never give a credit card or bank account number to an unknown solicitor.
• Never give cash and never agree to give money to a courier. Write a check to the charity directly – not the soliciting individual – and get a receipt.
For information about specific relief operations currently underway, Texans should contact the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP). AIP is a national charity watchdog service that assists donors with identifying reliable charitable organizations.
Texans should visit their Web site at www.charitywatch.org.
Texans who wish to file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General regarding suspicious e-mail charity solicitations may call the Consumer Complaint Hotline at (800) 252-8011 or file a complaint online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.