PHOENIX - Attorney General Mark Brnovich warns Arizonans to protect themselves from charity scams after Monday’s fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Before the fire even had a chance to be extinguished, suspicious and fraudulent donation drives to help rebuild the Notre Dame started popping up. Fake Facebook pages, unauthorized GoFundMe drives, and scam charity websites often materialize after tragedies and natural disasters, scamming people looking to help out of their hard-earned money.
“We see a spike in fake online donation drives after every tragedy or natural disaster. It’s disgusting people try to take advantage of human kindness and our desire to help during a difficult time,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “While giving to important causes is commendable, Arizonans need to do their homework before they donate to any charity.”
AG Brnovich offers the following donation tips:
- Donate to charities you know and trust. Beware of charities that seem to have appeared overnight in connection with current events.
- If you want to make a donation, independently go to the website of the charity of your choice and make a donation. Do not click on any links in emails or texts you might receive.
- Never give out personal or financial information – including your Social Security number, credit card or bank account number – over the phone. If you are solicited by phone or in person, go to the website of the charity – or call the number listed on the website – to make your donation.
- Never send cash. You can’t be sure the organization will receive your donation, and you won’t have a record for tax purposes. Pay by credit card whenever possible, as you may be able to seek a chargeback from the credit card company if the charity turns out to be a scam.
- Research charities with the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator or GuideStar.
- Know the difference between “tax deductible” and “tax-exempt.” Tax deductible means you can deduct your donation on your federal income tax return. Tax-exempt means the charity does not have to pay taxes. Even if an organization is tax exempt, your donation may not be tax deductible. If you would like a tax deduction, ask the charity for a receipt showing the amount of the contribution and stating that your donation is tax deductible. For more tax information regarding charitable contributions visit http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Contributors.
- Don’t give unless you personally know the person who posted the campaign.
- Giving on GoFundMe generally isn’t tax deductible.
- GoFundMe typically takes about 2.9% of each donation.
- Verify that the intended recipient is in control of the withdrawals. If not, make sure there is a clear path for the funds to reach them.
- Check how the funds will be distributed. It is common for people to set up GoFundMe fundraisers after highly publicized events, and then the money disappears.
The Attorney General’s Office took action recently to protect consumers from fraudulent charities with Senate Bill 1077. The bill, which unanimously passed the state legislature and became law last year, makes it illegal to knowingly misrepresent to a person that a donation is:
- Going to a non-profit corporation, or
- Enabling the person to receive a tax credit
To report suspected charity fraud, contact the Attorney General’s Office and file a consumer complaint online or contact the Consumer Information and Complaints Unit in Phoenix at (602) 542-5763; in Tucson at (520) 628-6648; and outside of the metro Phoenix area at (800) 352-8431.