COMMENTARY BY PROFESSIONAL LICENSE, INJURY and CRIMINAL ATTORNEY SAM SPITAL:
“When individuals donate to charitable causes, the last thing they think about is what percentage of the money goes to the actual cause involved after deducting the administrative costs and commission or income to the solicitors seeking the donations. Sadly, the unsuspecting public almost uniformly does not research the “charity” to determine if it is indeed an exempt organization eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable donations. Some organizations will use names that are sufficiently similar to the more commonly known and legitimate entities to trick the public into thinking they are the one intended by the donor or contributor, but in fact are not. It seems the public is hesitant to ask any questions or do a minimal investigation, but will put their hands into their pocket and pull out their money or credit card out of kindness.
It is wise to be alert to a variety of fraudulent practices (such as those individuals who only want to get one’s credit or bank information this way). In addition, when you want to know the percentage of expenses that are taken out of every dollar that is donated, one can easily check online before giving donations. A search online of the named organization and their website should be available. This way one can verify with the posted tax identification number if they are registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Then, one can go online to the IRS site to confirm the information, as follows: http://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/. It is noteworthy that in California, the Attorney General’s Office regulates charities and fundraisers (see: http://oag.ca.gov/charities)
On December 4, 2012, the NBC Channel 7 local news posted an article about three individuals who were arrested after they were allegedly holding up signs reading ‘Funeral Donations” with a photo of a baby to solicit donations at a street corner from drivers who came to or stopped at the particular intersection. The unspeakable truth is this was a complete scam for a make believe funeral. Apparently, this was not the first time panhandlers were caught engaging in such schemes. Each of us give donations out of the generosity of our heart, but we also need to be wary because there are in fact charitable scams. Unfortunately, there are people who are unwilling to work for a living to perform legitimate services to earn a wage or salary. During the holiday season, there seem to be more scams than at other times, but one should always be vigilant.”