(WETM) — Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry has released some tips to help people who want to donate to those affected by the Israel and Palestine conflict avoid getting scammed.
“Pennsylvanians are free to support any organization their hearts desire, but I want to offer some guidance on how you can make sure that support reaches the intended recipients, rather than scammers who exploit opportunity and prey on our collective generosity,” said Henry. “On behalf of my office, I am providing three simple steps you can take to protect your hard-earned dollars and donations.”
The first thing the attorney general’s office suggests doing before sending money to a charity is asking questions. You should ask for the name of the organization that’s soliciting your donation and where the money will specifically go. Bad actors might try to take advantage of people without giving their organization’s name. Additionally, charities should always be able to tell you exactly what your donation will be used for.
U.S.-based charities all have an Employee Identification Number (EIN) that the IRS uses for searches, and these charities should be able to give this number to you. If a charity is based in the U.S. and won’t give you this number, it might not be legitimate. You should also be able to ask if the charity is run by volunteers or paid fundraisers and how much of your donation will actually be received by the charity.
After getting all of this information, the attorney general recommends verifying it. You can check with the IRS or the Pennsylvania Department of State‘s registries to make sure the organizations are registered and to see if donations are tax deductible. Most charities that fundraise in Pennsylvania have to register with the Department of State.
It’s important to remember that the Department of State does not endorse any registered charities, and not all registered charities are effective. Some charities use most of their donations for fundraising or paying employees instead of using that money for the intended purpose. The attorney general recommends using websites like give.org, charitywatch.org, or charitynavigator.org to do some research on any charities you’re considering donating to. This is especially important for brand-new charities that didn’t exist before the crisis.
After you find a charity you want to donate to, the attorney general’s office says to be careful with how you pay. Donations should always be made with credit cards because they have added financial protection. Never donate using cryptocurrency, cash, or a debit card. You should also never donate to a charity without doing research into the organization first. Scammers typically try to use urgency to pressure people into giving up their money without doing any research. Stay calm, and don’t let scammers pressure you.
It’s important to follow these tips any time you want to make a donation, not just during the current conflict.
If you think you were the victim of a scam, file a report with your local police department. Pennsylvania residents can file scam complaints with the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection by calling 800-441-2555 or visiting the attorney general’s website.