Don’t let Grinches abuse your giving spirit

Follow this advice to make sure your donation does the most good on Giving Tuesday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After spending on ourselves and those we love on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, many like to take a day to focus on charitable donations during Giving Tuesday.

But scam artists might be trying to take advantage of that giving spirit.

In this year’s Holiday Consumer Protection Guide, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody offered some tips to help ensure your charitable dollars do the most this season.

So we've got some ways you can stay safe while donating and stop those Grinches from stealing your holiday cheer.

First, do your homework on your charity of choice. Make sure it’s registered and is eligible to receive donations in Florida.

To see if the charity is registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, go to www.fdacs.gov/consumerservices or call 1-800-HELP-FLA.

Donors also need to be sure how much of their donation will go toward the charity’s programs, as opposed to administrative and fundraising expenses.

Do not give out your credit card, debit card or bank account information to anyone who reaches out to you unsolicited. If you want to donate to a charity who contacts you, ask them to send you information about the charity and a pledge form. A legitimate charity will do so.

Be on the look out for similar sounding charities. It is not unusual for sham charities to choose names that sound like the names of legitimate charities.

Know the difference between tax exempt and tax deductible. An organization that is tax exempt does not have to pay taxes, but this does not necessarily mean that a contribution you have made to it is tax deductible.

News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson has another tip to keep in mind.

“They’re fast talkers. They want to rush you into making a decision,” Jefferson said of scammers. “They (will) trick you (by) thanking you for having made a donation to an organization that you have never made before, and then, of course, you depend on your caller ID. Scammers are smart enough to know how to make a phone call look like it is coming from a local number when it really isn’t.”

Any consumer who has questions about making secure holiday shopping purchases or encounters a scam can call the Attorney General’s Fraud Hotline at 1-866-9NO-SCAM or visit MyFloridaLegal.com.

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