Be smart with your char­ity dol­lars

Record Observer - - Opinion -

From widely known vol­un­teer or­ga­ni­za­tions like the American Red Cross to the dozens of Go­FundMe.com pages that crop up and ask for our dol­lars, ur­gent re­quests for char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions have sky­rock­eted in the wake of Hur­ri­canes Har­vey and Irma. And no doubt we’ll see more of them over the com­ing weeks that lie ahead this storm sea­son.

One thing Mid-Shore res­i­dents have al­ways been good at is giv­ing. We’ve seen churches and busi­nesses pitch in to help pro­vide relief for those af­fected by th­ese re­cent dev­as­tat­ing dis­as­ters.

As we have re­ported, lo­cal com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als col­lected sup­plies for de­liv­ery to dis­as­ter-hit ar­eas. Lo­cal farm­ers col­lected feed for horses, cat­tle and pets. Other or­ga­ni­za­tions re­sponded as well.

In the face of dis­as­ter, it can be easy to jump at the chance to do­nate, be­liev­ing our money is going to a valu­able cause to help those less for­tu­nate. How­ever, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber while most char­i­ta­ble solic­i­tors are gen­uine, there are many oth­ers who are not and who may take ad­van­tage of the plight of hur­ri­cane and flood vic­tims to make a self­ish profit.

“Donors need to be vig­i­lant and do­nate wisely, scam artists are out there and prey on the gen­eros­ity of well-in­tended donors,” ad­vises John C. Woben­smith, Mary­land Sec­re­tary of State.

“The dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects of Hur­ri­cane Irma up­ended the lives of tens of thou­sands, maybe more, who are caught in the cross hairs of this dis­as­ter. Scam artists may prey on your gen­eros­ity by try­ing to con you into giv­ing to fraud­u­lent char­i­ties and scams to line their own pock­ets,” Woben­smith warns. “Those who suf­fered the rav­ages of Irma and sim­i­lar dis­as­ters need and are grate­ful for your gen­eros­ity. Make sure that if you choose to give, that your do­na­tions are given to rep­utable, wellestab­lished char­i­ties.”

The Of­fice of the Sec­re­tary of State reg­is­ters and reg­u­lates char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions that so­licit con­tri­bu­tions in Mary­land. To­gether with the as­sis­tance of the Mary­land At­tor­ney Gen­eral, the Sec­re­tary of State en­forces Mary­land’s char­i­ta­ble giv­ing laws to en­sure do­na­tions are used for their in­tended pur­pose.

Go to http://sos.mary­land.gov/Char­ity/Pages/Giv­ing-Wisely.aspx on the Sec­re­tary of State’s web­site for tips on how to give wisely to char­i­ties.

The Sec­re­tary of State also keeps a public reg­istry of char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions au­tho­rized to so­licit in Mary­land. Go to http://sos.mary­land.gov/Char­ity/Pages/SearchChar­ity.aspx for in­for­ma­tion and to search the reg­istry for a spe­cific char­ity.

Those who think they have been a vic­tim of a de­cep­tive or il­le­gal char­i­ta­ble so­lic­i­ta­tion can re­port a com­plaint to the Char­i­ties and Le­gal Ser­vices Divi­sion at 410-974-5521 or 1-800-825-4510.

So while we en­cour­age ev­ery­one to seize this op­por­tu­nity to help their fel­low man, we ask that you heed state of­fi­cials’ warn­ing and al­ways dou­ble-check be­fore con­tribut­ing money to a so­lic­it­ing in­di­vid­ual or group. The state of­fers an easy means of en­sur­ing your hard-earned dol­lars sup­port true causes.

Keep on giv­ing, Mid-Shore. Just be sure to do so wisely.

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