Howard County: Don’t Get Pressured Into Charity Scams

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ)– The Howard County Office of Consumer Protection is urging residents to use caution when encountering solicitors who claim to represent firefighter associations or others seeking donations to aid people who  have been affected by disasters.

The Office of Consumer Protection says to follow these tips:

  • Take your time. Be wary of high pressure tactics and requests that donations be paid in cash, by pre-paid gift or debit cards or by wire transfer.
  • Make sure you are giving your donation to a legitimate organization. Con artists sometimes use names that are similar to well-known organizations. Ask for written information about the group’s mission and history or do some independent research.
  • Make sure the organization is registered. In Maryland, non-profit fundraisers must register with the Office of the Secretary of State (SOS) before asking for donations. The SOS’ website enables you to see if the organization is registered and provides links to other sites that will assist you in making your donation decisions.
  • Ask whether the person calling represents the charity or a professional fundraiser and find out what percentage of your donation will be used for “administrative costs” or “overhead.” It is not uncommon for fundraising companies to take 80 percent or more of every donation. Sending your donation directly to the organization instead of the fundraiser can help maximize the impact of your gift.
  • Check on the charity’s reputation using sites like charitynavigator.org and www.givewell.org, which rank charities based on efficiency, transparency and accountability.
  • Ask how any information you provide will be used. Many organizations continue to contact donors after a donation and may sell or rent your contact information to other organizations. If you are frequently contacted by organizations you do not wish to donate to, ask them to put your name on a “Do Not Call” list.

“It is only natural for people to want to support first responders, especially following natural disasters and other tragedies. But, it is important to make sure that your generosity makes its way to those you want to support and not to con artists who prey on your good will,” said Rebecca Bowman, Administrator of the Howard County Office of Consumer Protection.

For more information and or to report a potential scam, contact the Office of Consumer Protection at 410-313-6420 or visit the Office’s “Scam Alert!” website.

Residents who have lost money or feel their personal safety is at risk due to a scam, should contact the Howard County Police Department’s non-emergency phone number at 410-313-2200 to file a report.

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