(WWBT) - Virginia's attorney general is urging residents to be cautious when donating to assist victims of Saturday's violence in Charlottesville.
"Virginians are bighearted people who want to help their fellow citizens, but we have to be cautious and smart about it because the sad truth is there are pathetic people out there who will try to exploit a tragedy like this to line their own pockets," said Mark Herring.
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Herring urges residents to "vet the organization, campaign, or page organizer before contributing."
Herring's office has these tips for you to follow before making any donations:
- Be wary of charities that spring up overnight in connection with a current event or natural disaster. Even if they are legitimate, they may not have the infrastructure or experience to get your donation to the affected area
- Check the creator or page owner's credentials and try to confirm its authenticity and seriousness.
- Look for indicators of endorsement or legitimacy that the page is actually collecting donations for a particular victim or organization.
- If you feel uneasy, contribute to a more established charity in the community.
- If contributing over the Internet, be sure the web site you are visiting belongs to the charity to which you want to donate. See if other legitimate web sites will link to that web site.
- Make sure the web site is secure and offers protection of your credit card number.
- Scrutinize charities with consumer advocates or friends and find out how much of your donation will go to the charity's programs and services.
- Be especially cautious if you do not initiate the contact with the charity.
- Beware of "copy-cat" names that sound like reputable charities. Some scammers use names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate organizations.
- Do not be pressured into giving. Legitimate organizations will not expect you to contribute immediately.
- Ask for written information about the charity, including name, address, and telephone number. Legitimate organizations will give you materials about the charity's mission, how your donation will be used, and proof that your contribution is tax-deductible.
- Avoid cash donations. Make checks payable to the charitable organization and not to an individual collecting a donation. For security and tax record purposes, you may wish to pay by credit card.
- Verify the charity's registration with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs ("OCRP") at 804-786-1343, or by searching OCRP's Charitable Organization Database online.
You can report charitable solicitation fraud to the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs at:
- Office of the Attorney General
Consumer Protection Section
202 North Ninth St.
Richmond, VA 23219
- 800-552-9963 (if calling from Virginia)
- 804-786-2042 (phone) (if calling from Richmond area)
- 804-225-4378 (fax)
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Fill out the Attorney General's Consumer Complaint Form
- Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs
P.O. Box 1163
Richmond, VA 23218
- 804-225-2666 (fax)
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