Wyman, Ferguson empower citizens to defend against charity scams

The holiday season is a time for giving, and scammers are trying to get in on the action. Research shows that fraud rates typically increase late in the year, which is why Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Attorney General Bob Ferguson are alerting Washington residents to the dangers of holiday charity scams and unscrupulous solicitors.

“We’ve been encouraging people to ‘Give Smart’ this time of year by making informed choices when donating money to charity,” said Wyman, whose office oversees the state’s Corporations and Charities Division. “There are so many reasons to help out the less fortunate these days, and – unfortunately – just as many new scammers looking to rip people off. That’s why we want everyone to do their homework and use our websites before giving.”

“Don’t let the fear of being taken advantage of discourage your kindness and generosity,” said Ferguson. “There are simple steps you can take to make sure that your donation is going where you intend it to.”

The two state officials say there are several ways to “Give Smart” and avoid falling victim to those seeking fraudulent donations:

* Don’t give in to high-pressure solicitations that demand you make an instant commitment.

* Do your research before giving by checking the Secretary of State’s charity registration database.

* If the organization is registered, you can review a summary of its annual registration, including federal tax-exempt status and financial information.

* If the organization is not registered, or you would like further information, contact the SOS Charities Program at 1-800-332-4483.

* Check the charity’s Better Business Bureau rating.

Find more resources for donors at www.sos.wa.gov/charities/ResourcesforDonors.aspx.

If a commercial fundraiser is involved, call the charity directly to make sure it has authorized the paid solicitor to collect donations on its behalf.

Commercial Fundraiser Activity Report:

The Office of Secretary of State’s Charities Division has released its Commercial Fundraiser Activity Report, which spotlights recent financial information for commercial fundraisers who solicit or collect donations on behalf of their charity clients. The causes vary widely and include police, firefighter and veteran organizations, medical research, animal welfare, civil liberties, and the environment.

Overall in 2017, charities that used commercial fundraisers received an average of 60 percent of contributions, lower than the 61 percent found in the 2016 report.

The percentages that individual fundraisers retained was wide-ranging: Some fundraisers kept less than 10 percent and sent the remaining funds to their charity client(s), while other fundraisers’ fees and expenses were more than the amount raised.

Commercial Fundraiser Activity Reports have been available since 1995, and users of the Secretary of State’s new Corporations and Charities Filing System can get registration information on commercial fundraisers.

Commercial fundraisers – who are compensated for their efforts – take a cut of the donations or charge a fee for their services before sending money to a charitable organization. They use many methods to solicit the public, including telephone, internet and mail.

Need more information, or to file a complaint?

* Download the Give Smart brochure for more information.

* For questions, call the Secretary of State’s Charities Division at 1-800-332-4483.

* To file a complaint about a charity or commercial fundraiser, visit the Attorney General’s website.

                         - Office of the Secretary of State