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Fraudulent charities and websites commonly appear soon after tragedies

AG Gansler Urges Marylanders to Give Only to Legit Charities Following Boston Marathon Bombings Generosity is encouraged,

Baltimore, MD ( April 18, 2013)– In the wake of horrific bombings this week during the Boston Marathon that has spurred an outpouring of charitable giving and generosity, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler is encouraging Marylanders to research an organization’s history before making contributions.

“Many people want to make a charitable donation following the unspeakable attacks on innocent civilians — and I encourage that,” said Attorney General Gansler. “Unfortunately, history has shown that questionable organizations claiming to benefit those affected by tragic incidents often spring up in an effort to exploit the public’s goodwill. Marylanders should look into an organization’s history to make sure their generosity is going to reputable charities and gets to people in need of assistance.”

Marylanders considering making a donation should take the time to verify the address, phone number, contact information and review the website and written material of the charitable organization. Individuals should never give to a charity they know nothing about or have never heard of.

Potential donors should be especially judicious when considering making an online contribution. More than 125 website domain names relating to the Boston explosions were registered within an hour of Monday’s tragedy, according to media reports.

To best ensure that donations will be used for its intended purpose, Attorney General Gansler offers the following suggestions to consumers:

  • If you are contributing over the Internet, watch out for fake websites resembling those of legitimate organizations. For example, the American Red Cross website is www.redcross.org, NOT www.redcross.com.
  • Rather than clicking on a link found in an e-mail or on a website, type the name of the organization you wish to donate to in an online search engine. Most relief organizations end with “.org” not “.com”.
  • When making an online donation, make sure the website is secure and will offer protection for your credit card number so you do not become vulnerable to identity theft. You can identify a secure website as one that begins with “https”.
  • Bogus charities often use names and logos that closely resemble those of other more well-known organizations.
  • In general, do not give out personal information such as a credit card number or bank account number to telephone solicitations.
  • Do not make cash donations. Use credit cards or checks, and only make checks out to the organization, not an individual agent claiming to represent the charity.
  • Check if the charity (and paid fundraiser, if one is used) is registered with the appropriate state entity that oversees nonprofits. In Maryland, legitimate charities must register with the Maryland Secretary of State (http://www.sos.state.md.us/Charity/SearchCharity.aspx). Massachusetts-based charities must be registered with the Attorney General’s Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division (www.mass.gov/ago/charitiesreports)
  • Ask how much of the donation goes toward the charitable work, and how much goes toward administrative costs of the fundraising company contacting the consumer. Be suspicious if the answer claims to be 100 percent, as all organizations have administrative costs.
  • Ask if your contribution is tax-deductible and what the charity intends to do with any excess contributions that might remain after the victims’ needs are addressed.

For more information regarding charitable giving, consumers can visit the Attorney General’s website at www.oag.state.md.us/consumer/tip42.htm.

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