Press Release by Michael Delaney, NH Attorney General
The holiday season is a time when New Hampshire citizens receive dozens of solicitations in the mail, over the telephone, and through social media for contributions to charitable and charitable-sounding organizations. While the vast majority of these organizations are legitimate, the Attorney General’s Office receives numerous reports of charitable solicitation scams seeking donations to nonprofit-sounding entities which either do not exist or are not legitimate.
In order to better protect the generous donors in New Hampshire from false or fraudulent solicitations, New Hampshire Attorney General Michael A. Delaney offers the following guidance to help insure your donation is used for a legitimate charitable purpose.
Be an informed donor:
The Charitable Trusts Unit of the Attorney General’s Office posts a list of all charities registered with the Attorney General as well as a list of all registered professional fundraisers on its website: http://www.doj.nh.gov/site-map/charities.htm. All professional fundraisers soliciting donations on behalf of nonprofit organizations are required to obtain a permit from the Attorney General before the solicitation campaign is commenced and a listing of all approved campaigns are on the website.
Follow these 10 Tips for Making Smart Donations:
1. Ask the solicitor for some identification before giving out any personal information. By law, paid solicitors must identify the charity for which they solicit and their status as a paid solicitor. Do not be afraid to ask and if they refuse, do not hesitate to hang up and contact your local law enforcement agency.
2. Ask for printed or electronic materials from the charity. Any legitimate charity can provide printed materials for you to study in order to better understand the charity and the charity’s purpose. Ask for materials that clearly state: (1) the name, address and telephone number of the charity; (2) a description of how and where charitable funds will be used; and (3) the name, address and telephone number of the paid solicitor.
3. Ask how much of your contribution actually goes to the charity. Professional fundraisers retain a portion of your donation as payment for the service provided to the charity. According to New Hampshire law, solicitors and the charities for which they solicit are required to file an accounting of the fundraising campaign, which must include a copy of the terms of the fundraising agreement. This filing should indicate how much of the proceeds actually go to the charity and should be available for the solicitor to disclose to all potential donors.
4. Beware of high-pressure sales tactics and abusive behavior by solicitors. No legitimate charitable fundraiser will refuse to take the time to explain the purpose of fundraising and the objectives of the charity in a courteous manner. If you encounter abusive solicitation you should end the communication and contact your local law enforcement agency.
5. Keep records of all donations, including receipts and cancelled checks. This information is especially important for tax deduction purposes and in case you have a complaint in the future.
6. Beware of solicitors “soliciting” for organizations that may have deceptively similar names to legitimate charities. Many for-profit organizations style their names after charitable organizations. Do not be deceived by these copy-cat businesses whose titles may differ by such minor terms as “association,” “federation,” “national,” “American,” “incorporated,” and “foundation.” Do not hesitate to ask for more information and contact your local law enforcement agency if you are unsure of the legitimacy of any campaigns.
7. NEVER pay by cash and NEVER give out your credit card number over the phone. When making a donation, simply make a check out to the charity itself, not to the paid solicitor, and use the charity’s full name. That way you have a record of the contribution and the money goes directly to the charity.
8. Call the charities that are the beneficiaries of the charitable fundraising campaign and ask if they are aware of the solicitation. If the charities are unaware of the solicitation campaign on their behalf do not donate any money and contact the Charitable Trusts Unit or your local law enforcement agency immediately.
9. Don’t be deceived by solicitation gimmicks. Use caution when purchasing products or tickets, or when receiving free merchandise in exchange for a donation. These methods may be legitimate but they add costs to the fundraising campaigns which are ultimately deducted from your donation. Also use caution when dealing with sweepstakes which may request donations worth more than the prize awarded, or which do not provide a prize at all.
10. Take time to verify all information before making a donation. All charities and paid solicitors are required to register with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office prior to solicitation. If you have any questions or problems, write to OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, CHARITABLE TRUSTS UNIT, 33 CAPITOL STREET, CONCORD, NH 03301-6397.
If in doubt, check it out:
While it is generally preferable to donate to charities that you are familiar with, please do not hesitate to call the Attorney General’s Charitable Trust Unit before giving to any charity, especially one you are unfamiliar with. The Unit’s telephone number is (603) 271-3591. Most information filed by nonprofit organizations with the Charitable Trusts Unit, including annual reports and fundraising contracts, is open to the public under the State’s Right to Know Law and is available upon request.
The holidays are a wonderful time for supporting charitable organizations and causes and this information is designed to assist New Hampshire citizens in selecting the best recipients of their charitable giving by providing donors with the information needed to make informed giving decisions.
If you believe you may have been the victim of a scam, contact the Lawyer Referral Service now at 603-229-0002 for a referral to an attorney who handles fraud related legal matters or request a referral online at https://www.newhampshirelawyerreferral.com/contact-us.