Donors beware. Holiday time is traditionally a time for giving, but donors need to be aware that there are scam artists ready to take advantage of generous hearts. Maryland Gov. Hogan has issued a warning to alert citizens of such deceptive practices.
In Maryland, charitable organizations must register with the Office of the Secretary of the State if they solicit donations from Maryland citizens and collect $25,000 or more in direct public support; or if they use paid solicitors to raise funds. Additionally, smaller charities may be required to file a simple fund-raising notice with the Office of the Secretary of State. So before giving to an unknown charitable organization, citizens should check to see if the charity is registered with the Maryland Secretary of State.
Here are some “red flags” that the Maryland Secretary of State suggests to help you determine whether a solicitor is a charitable organization is worthy of your support:
- Does the organization refuse to send you written material or financial information before you make a pledge? If you are pressured into giving right away, you may want to hold off.
- Did the solicitor offer to send a person to collect your contribution? This could be a scam!
- Did you receive an invoice or statement for a contribution you never pledged? Some con artists will send something resembling a bill, gambling that you will pay it without question.
- Does the organization’s name and logo closely resemble another charity with a similar purpose? Another con is to create a charitable organization that mimics another well known one. Trusting donors think their donation is going to a good cause, but in reality, the funds are going to line the scammers’ pockets.
Remember that you have the right to change your mind after agreeing to make a donation. Before making a significant gift, check to see if the organization is registered with the Maryland Secretary of State. Citizens can call 800-825-4510 or check the Secretary of State’s charity page. Citizens can also go directly to the Maryland charities database to look up a specific charity.
The Secretary of State’s Office is responsible for investigating charity fraud. Citizens wanting to report a potentially fraudulent charity may call the Investigations Unit of the Secretary of State’s Office at 410-260-3879 or 800-825-4510.