CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is urging consumers to carefully evaluate charitable organizations before giving donations this holiday season.
“Each year, thousands of West Virginians open their hearts and their wallets during the holidays to help the less fortunate,” Morrisey said in a statement. “It’s important to make sure you donate wisely and avoid making contributions to fraudulent organizations.”
People who wish to make charitable donations can verify the legitimacy of an organization in a number of ways, including:
- Check with the Secretary of State’s office to see if the charity is registered to solicit donations in West Virginia;
- Research the charity on websites such as charitynavigator.org orguidestar.org; or
- Call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division to see if the charity has ever been reported.
Consumers also should be mindful when donating online. After verifying the website seeking donations is legitimate, check to make sure it has safeguards in place to protect your personal information. When visiting the donation portal, make sure the website starts with “https://,” which indicates the website has a secure connection, making it less likely for information to be hacked or stolen.
Additional tips to keep in mind when donating this year:
- Never feel pressured to donate immediately, either in person or online.
- Be wary of charities that ask you do donate in cash or via wire transfer. That’s often a sign the charity could be fraudulent.
- If approached by an unfamiliar charitable organization, gather as much information as you can and do proper research – contact names, address, telephone number.
- Be suspicious of organizations that will not give you proof that your contribution is tax deductible, or will not give you additional information about its mission or how donations will be used.
- If a donation request is for a local chapter of an organization, verify that they are authorized to solicit funds on behalf of the parent organization.
“The holidays are a great time for all of us to be in the giving spirit, and technology has made it more convenient than ever to be charitable,” Morrisey said. “By taking the proper time to do research, you will be able to make the best decision on where to donate, and you’ll be able to avoid fraudulent organizations.”