Thursday, December 11, 2014

Give wisely this season, avoid being taken

As Kentucky residents open their pocketbooks and wallets for those in need of a helping hand this holiday season, state Attorney General Jack Conway wants to make sure your charitable donations do not end up in the hands of scam artists.

“Much like storms and natural disasters, the season of giving brings out the best and worst in people,” Conway said in a statement. “Scam artists and dishonest or fraudulent charities not only take advantage of the kindness of others, they deprive reputable charitable organizations of crucial resources needed to help provide clothes for a child or food for a struggling family. If you plan to give to a charitable organization over the holidays, gather as much information as possible to make sure the charity is not a scam and that your donation reaches someone in need.”

The Office of Consumer Protection reminds Kentuckians it's a good idea to keep the following tips in mind if you choose to make a charitable donation this holiday season:

  • Donate to charities you know and trust. When possible, take the time to verify the address, phone number, and additional contact information. Consider a charity's history, purpose, track record, and reputation.
  • If you are contributing over the Internet, make sure that the website you are visiting belongs to a legitimate, established, and registered charity, and that the website and the charity match. Also, make sure the site is secure and will offer protection for your credit-card information.
  • Be cautious of sound-alike charities and solicitors unable to answer questions.
  • Where possible, make donations by check or credit card rather than cash.
  • Beware of unsolicited email requests that appear to come from a legitimate charity. These requests may actually be phishing scams designed to gain access to passwords, credit-card data and personal information.
  • Don’t be pressured into making a donation.
  • Ask for identification and written information when you’re approached in person.

Conway said Kentuckians can utilize his office’s charitable giving database to research a charity before making a donation. The database at lists which charities have registered with the Office of the Attorney General.

Consumers also have the ability to find out what percentage of their charitable donation actually goes to the charity and what percentage goes to a paid solicitor. Websites such as and the Better Business Bureau’s can also provide individuals with information about a large number of charitable organizations.

Persons who fear they have been the victim of a consumer scam can get help by contacting the Office of the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline at (888) 432-9257 or by visiting