Kind-hearted Tennesseans will turn to charitable organizations this year to help make a positive impact for those who are less fortunate. Unfortunately, charity scammers will use the end-of-year giving surge and take advantage to consumers' generosity. To help consumers avoid charity scams, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance's (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs is advising consumers to always research charitable organizations before opening their wallets or entering personal information online.
"The holiday and end of year season is a great opportunity to donate to legitimate charitable organizations in order to give back to the community," said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. "When making a donation, we advise consumers to always practice due diligence in order to ensure the money will be going to the intended organization, not a scammer."
The Division of Consumer Affairs offers the following tips to help consumers avoid scammers.
o Always research the charity or organization before giving money.
o Ensure that the charity is registered with the Tennessee Secretary of State's Office.
o Conduct an online search of the organization name.
o Check with the BBB's Wise Giving Alliance at give.org to see charity reports.
o Find out how much of your donation will go for the charitable purpose and how much will go toward the charity's administrative costs.
o Don't rush. Request information be sent to you. Consider your options carefully. Get all the information about an organization before you give.
o If an organization is soliciting donations over the phone or via the Internet or social media and you did not initiate contact, do not give your personal or financial information until you are able to do research.
o Be cautious of lookalike websites. Fraudulent websites often ask for personal or financial information over an unsecure connection or may download harmful malware into your computer. Look for a padlock symbol or "https" before the web address indicating that it is secure.
o Don't assume that charity recommendations on social media platforms have already been vetted. Research the charity yourself.
o Check labeling on donation bins indicating the intentions for the donations and information about the charity. You can review required information for professional solicitors, non-profit, and for-profit organizations here.
o Raffles are considered charitable gaming events and must be registered with the Tennessee Secretary of State's Office. Find out who qualifies to hold a raffle and search registered events here.
o If you've witnessed deceptive or misleading fundraising activity, you can file a complaint with the Tennessee Secretary of State's Office.