Be smart with your charity dollars
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.