Schneiderman: It's critically important to help others in their time of great need. It's also important for donors to give responsibly by checking before giving.
In the aftermath of the devastating and deadly natural disasters in the American Midwest and the Philippines, millions of New Yorkers and individuals across the country are looking for ways to aid victims in rebuilding their lives. To help ensure donors' contributions reach the people who desperately need them, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has issued the following tips:
"We are continually inspired by the generosity of the public and the hard work of charities in response to natural disasters, both at home and abroad. For that reason, my office is committed to monitoring the activities of charitable organizations that operate in the wake of tragedies like these," Schneiderman said. "It is essential that nonprofit organizations operate in the most transparent way possible."
Check Before Giving. Donate to charities you are familiar with, or that have experience assisting victims of tragedies. Get information about the charity before you donate. Check the attorney general's website - www.charitiesnys.com - for financial reports of charities registered with New York's Charities Bureau, or ask the charity directly for its reports. Make sure the charity has received tax exemption from the IRS by checking www.irs.gov. The following websites also contain helpful information to evaluate charities:
•Charity Watch - www.charitywatch.org
•Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance - www.bbb.org
•Charity Navigator - www.charitynavigator.org
•GuideStar - www.guidestar.org
Find Out How Your Contribution Will Be Used. Make sure your donation will help victims of the tornadoes or the typhoon if that is your intention. Find out whether you are able to restrict your gift for that purpose. Also, find out what the charity plans to do with unrestricted donations. Avoid charities that make emotional appeals but don't answer your questions. Any legitimate organization should be glad to give you answers and provide written information about its programs and finances.
Before You Text A Contribution. Before donating via a text message, check the charity's website or call the charity to make sure contributions by text message are authorized by the charity. Also, remember that donations by text messaging may not be sent to the charity until after you pay your phone bill. Contributions made directly to a charity should reach it faster.
Don't Give Cash. Make your contribution to the charity by check made payable to the organization, via approved text messaging or through the charity's website.
Be Careful About Personal Information. Avoid giving credit card or personal information on the phone or by text message. Always make sure you are familiar with any organization to which you give such information.
Avoid Unsolicited Spam Emails. These messages may not be sent by legitimate charities. Check the Department of Homeland Security tips - "Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks" - posted here.
Report Suspicious Organizations. If you think an organization is misrepresenting its work, or that a scam may be taking place, contact the attorney general's Charities Bureau at email@example.com.
Schneiderman offers these tips to assist New Yorkers and others as they continue a long tradition of generosity in times of loss.