Avoid scammers and con artists: “Give smart” this holiday season

(OLYMPIA)— It’s the most wonderful time of the year for giving. And for scammers.

To help ensure charitable donations go to their intended causes, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman is encouraging people to “give smart” this holiday season.

GIVESMART! is a collaboration between the Office of the Secretary of State’s Charities division and the state’s Attorney General’s office that empowers people to make educated and informed giving decisions. GIVESMART! offers resources that can help Washingtonians, as well as senior centers, retirement communities, and civic and nonprofit organizations, protect themselves from being victimized by fake charities and fundraisers.

Resources include an Info Sheet and Trifold Brochure for quick and easy pointers; Telephone Questions Guide and Charities Contact Info magnets; a Questions for Telephone Solicitations checklist; and others. For more information, and to receive these resources at no charge or schedule an in-person presentation, visit sos.wa.gov/charities/givesmart.

“The holiday season is here, but so are scammers and con artists looking to take advantage of people’s generosity and kindness,” said Wyman. “That’s why my office and the Attorney General’s launched GIVESMART! to help consumers outsmart the scammers and make informed decisions before giving.”

Wyman offers these GIVESMART! tips for people to consider before they donate to any charity or fundraiser.

· Do not give in to high-pressure solicitations demanding an immediate commitment.

· Check the Washington Corporations & Charities Filing System before donating.

· If an organization is registered, review its annual registration, including its federal tax-exempt status and financial information. If the organization is not registered, contact the Charities division at 800-332-4483.

· Check the charity’s Better Business Bureau rating at Give.org.

· If a third party is raising money for a charity, call the charity directly to make sure it authorized the solicitor to collect donations on its behalf.

· Most importantly: Don’t give any personal information over the phone to any charity, and don’t give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t expect.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission offers additional helpful hints.

Visit sos.wa.gov/charities or call 800-332-4483 to learn more about the Secretary of State’s Charities division. To file a complaint against a suspicious charity or fundraiser, go to atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.