GALLAGHER WARNS FLORIDIANS TO BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR CHARITY CON ARTISTS
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher is urging Floridians who are interested in donating to a charity to help victims of Hurricane Katrina to make sure they give their money to a reputable organization and not a con artist.
“Hurricane Katrina has had an extraordinary impact on many here in Florida as well as millions of our neighbors in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana,” said Gallagher, who also serves as State Fire Marshal and has assisted in the coordination of several Florida search and rescue teams to those impacted areas. “Please contribute whatever you can to help, but take time to check out who you send money to so your donations truly get to the victims and their families.”
In Florida, most charities are required to register with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and to provide financial information, such as how much is raised, how much is spent on administrative costs, fundraising and on the program services. Charities that solicit in Florida are included in this requirement even if they are located out of state.
Gallagher advised Floridians to ask for written information and proof that their contribution is tax-deductible. He said solicitations may come by phone, mail or in person and said Floridians should follow these tips:
- Only give to disaster relief charities you know are reliable.
- Beware of "copy-cat" names that sound like reputable charities.
- Do not be pressured into giving. Legitimate organizations will not expect you to contribute
- Ask for written information. Legitimate organizations will give you materials about the charity’s immediate mission, how your donation will be used and proof that your contribution is tax-deductible.
- Just because a "charity" has a tax identification number does not mean your contribution is tax-deductible.
- Ask how much of the donation will go to the program you want to support and how much will go to administrative or fundraising costs.
- Avoid cash donations. Make checks payable to the charitable organization and not to an individual collecting a donation.
- Do not give your credit card number or other personal information to a telephone or e-mail solicitor.
- Find out what the charity intends to do with any excess contributions remaining after they have funded activities for the victims and families of the hurricane disaster.
- Remember the opportunities to give will continue. The tragedy aftermath will not disappear when the headlines do.
The Florida Department of Financial Services is collecting needed items for families and friends of fellow employees who have been victims of Hurricane Katrina.