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Avoid opening the door to holiday charity scams

During the holiday season, many people are quick to generously donate to causes and charities. It’s a wonderful thing, but scammers also look to take advantage of your good will.

The Better Business Bureau has heard several reports from Treasure Valley residents of people coming door-to-door, requesting donations for a cause. While many of these requests are legitimate, there are others we have not been able to verify. If you get a knock at your door from someone asking for donations, ask questions and do not donate until you are satisfied with the answer. Charities with nothing to hide will encourage your interest.

To learn more about how a local charity solicits for donations, we spoke with the Boys and Girls Club of Ada County. Director of Operations Joey Schueler said no representative will go door to door requesting cash. He wants donors to feel confident when making their gifts, and he readily welcomes questions. The organization also offers several ways to give, something that would-be donors for any cause may want to look for. Organizations that claim to accept only cash donations raise red flags.

Consider making all contributions by check. Make your check payable to the charity, not to the individual collecting the donation. Avoid high-pressure pitches; responsible organizations will welcome your donation tomorrow just as much as today.

Watch for name similarities. Charities with similar missions may have similar names, and fraudsters are known for trying to confuse people with fake charity names that are close to the real ones. Before giving, be sure to have the correct name of the charity you want to support.

Watch out for statements such as “all proceeds will go to the charity.” Organizations will incur costs to operate, and responsible charities will be transparent in how they operate. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance favors charities that report at least 65 percent of donations going to the cause.

If you do make a donation, keep a record of it, including receipts, canceled checks or bank statements. This can make it easier to document charitable giving at tax time. When deciding to give a donation, ask if the contribution is tax deductible.

When you’re asked to buy candy, magazines, cards or event tickets to benefit a charity, be sure to ask what the charity’s share will be. You cannot deduct the full amount paid for any such items, as the IRS considers only the part above the fair-market value of the item to be a charitable contribution.

Call BBB if a fundraiser uses high-pressure tactics such as intimidation, threats, or repeated and harassing calls or visits. Such tactics violate BBB’s recommended Standards for Charity Accountability.

Emily Valla, emily.valla@thebbb.org, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to www.bbb.org or call (208) 342-4649.

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