Santa and his elves are not the only busy people at this time of year. Robbers, thieves, carjackers and shoplifters all seem to thrive during the holiday season. This is also the time for various, and often ingenious, scams.
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"It pays to be cautious when you make your donations," states Dr. Rhonda Hackett, founder of Nivek, an organization that has helped over 100,000 people living in poverty and author of Making A Difference: Changing the World One Penny and One Minute at a Time.
She stresses the need for giving at home at a time when American children are going hungry and a record number of families are homeless and living in poverty and she suggests that givers choose from groups that need help, such as soup kitchens and food panties. She recommends using caution to avoid scams, however, including:
- Never giving personal information about credit cards over the phone or online, and never give cash.
- Requesting written description of the groups’ solicitation and registration information within your state of residence, and proof of accountability, before making a donation on the phone or Internet.
- Be wary of any alleged non-profit group with a name that closely resembles more established charities.
Web sites, such as www.bankrite.com, supply lists of scams and how to spot them. Twinkle, twinkle; pay $54; and name a star; may sound like a terrific idea, but even the certificate you receive is fake. Only The International Astronomical Union has the ability to name stars and they are not selling any names.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also provides a useful site www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/misc/charitycheck.htm to direct your money to a reputable charity and away from scams. They suggest:
- If the telemarketer claims that the charity supports a local organization, you call the group to verify.
- Ask for a receipt showing the amount of the gift that is tax deductible. Not all gifts made to a "tax exempt" group are tax deductible.
- Avoid Cash gifts, which can be lost or stolen.
- Discuss the donation with a trusted friend or family member. This may be especially important for older members of you family.
"Each of us can help in many ways," says Dr. Hackett. ..."and lead you to create ...your place in the world...that is well placed and successful!"