As the devastating Colorado floods continue to ravage parts of the state, generous people around the country are reaching out, as Americans always do when our fellow citizens are in need, to help those affected by the floods. Unfortunately, scammers pounce upon this opportunity to set up phony charities to lure you into contributing to lining their pockets rather than having the money go to those in need. We have seen this scenario repeated numerous times whether in instances of natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Irene or manmade tragedies such as the Newtown, Connecticut shootings and the story is always the same. Suddenly new charities spring up online. Sometimes you may receive a telephone call or an email soliciting for one of these new charities. So how do you know how to safely give?
You start by remembering my motto, “Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.” Whenever you get a solicitation by phone, email or text message you cannot be sure who really is contacting you. They may use the name of a legitimate charity, but you can’t be sure that these people are who they say they are. Additionally, when you are contacted by phone, it is generally by a paid charitable solicitor who is paid a commission on what he or she collects so the full amount of your contribution is diluted when it gets to the charity. The best thing to do is to check out any particular charity you may be considering with the website www.charitynavigator.org. This website will first tell you whether or not the charity is legitimate or a scam. But then it will also tell you how much of your contribution actually goes for charitable purposes and how much for administrative costs and salaries. The figures may surprise you. Once you have determined to what charity you are going to give, you should contact the charity directly to make your donation rather than go through a paid charitable solicitor so that more of your money will go toward the organization’s charitable purposes.