Welcome to the Department of Justice, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

For immediate release -- Tuesday, November 9, 1999.
Contact Bob Brammer -- 515-281-6699

"Donor, Beware!"

Miller Announces Timely Tips for Charitable Giving. Charitable organizations join effort to prevent con-artists from taking advantage of generous Iowans.

DES MOINES-- The Iowa Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division and the Iowa Chapters of the National Society of Fund Raising Executives are joining forces to fight back against consumer fraud schemes that target generous Iowans with questionable charitable solicitations.Attorney General Tom Miller and representatives of the Central Iowa Chapter of the National Society of Fund Raising Executives (NSFRE) announced publication of a new brochure to raise awareness about wise giving. "Charitable Donations: A Consumer's Guide to Giving Wisely" provides tips and questions to ask when a consumer is being solicited for a donation. The brochure is available from the Consumer Protection Division and cooperating organizations.

"The year-end is a crucial time for caution on charities," Miller said. "It is estimated that about half of all charitable giving is done in the last three months of the year. That means look-a-like or fraudulent charities want to get in the mix with other organizations competing for consumer donations."

According to the NSFRE, $175 billion were given to charitable causes in the U.S. in 1998. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that one per cent of all giving goes to fraudulent charities.

Joining Miller at the news conference were Karen Anderson of the Hospice of Central Iowa; Karen Kane of Big Brothers and Big Sisters; and Mark Reed of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The three are leaders of the Central Iowa Chapters of the NSFRE. The graphics firm Erickson McLellan contributed the design and graphic work for the brochure and poster.Miller said there are many fine charities soliciting contributions in Iowa, and that his office is eager to stop scams and uphold the integrity of our system of giving.

"Charity scams waste people's donations, divert money from reputable organizations, and squander money needed to help people in need," Miller said.

"Donor, beware. That's our watchword," he said. "Consumers need to be on guard to avoid losing their money to questionable charities."

Miller and NSFRE offered several tips to avoid charity scams:
  • Ask questions, and give to charities that give you the facts. Ask the caller to send you written information. Ask how much of each dollar donated will be used for the charitable purpose. Ask if the person calling will be paid a commission if you make a donation. (In some cases, a large portion of your donation is used to pay the caller's salary.) .

  • Beware of look-a-like charities. Some groups will use names similar to well-known charities in the hope of confusing consumers. Contact the local office of the charity to which you wish to donate before giving.

  • Contact your local public safety agency if a caller claims to be raising money for troopers, police, or firefighters. Ask if the money will be used in your community.
  • Watch out for callers who start by thanking you for "your past donation." Scam-artists often use that line to make you think you gave before when you did not.

  • Don't give your credit card or checking account number over the phone to anyone you don't know, and don't send cash.

For information about a particular national charity's activities, finances and fund raising practices, contact:

Consumers who believe they have been a victim of a fund raising "scam," or who want a copy of the brochure "Charitable Donations: A Consumer's Guide to Giving Wisely," should contact the Iowa Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at (515) 281-5926 or e-mail at consumer@max.state.ia.us

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