The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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November 11, 2012

Scam alert: Shysters look to cash in on Sandy

By Joanne Arbogast

The Daily Item


Before you donate to charities that claim to help military veterans or victims of Hurricane Sandy, first ask questions about the organization soliciting a contribution.

“Pennsylvanians are generous and want to do all they can to help the brave men and women who have defended our country, particularly around Veterans Day,’’ said Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele.

Pennsylvania is home to more than 1,034,000 veterans, the fourth-most of any state, which is one reason many veterans’ assistance organizations are located in the commonwealth. Aichele emphasized there are many reputable organizations in Pennsylvania that do help veterans.

But there are others that do not.

“In addition, Pennsylvania residents want to help our neighbors in New York and New Jersey who are suffering from the impact of the recent storm,” Aichele said. “While most charities are reputable and deliver most of the money they solicit to the causes they support, unfortunately some are not.”

Aichele’s department oversees charitable organizations.

“Natural disasters are unfortunately out of our control,” said Kase Chong, director of marketing for Scambook, an online complaint resolution platform. “However, something that we can control is how we help the victims of those disasters. This could mean donating money, food, clothes or other essential supplies that will help provide relief to disaster victims.”

If you’re not familiar with an organization asking for a donation, do as much research as you can to learn more about the organization. Also ask how much of your donation will actually go toward providing relief for victims as opposed to fund-raising expenses or administrative costs.

Also ask for a phone number to call, a website to visit, or literature for more information.

“If someone soliciting donations is unwilling to give you this information, it should be a red flag about donating money to that group,” Aichele said.

In addition to requesting information from an individual soliciting a donation, people can visit the Department of State website at www.dos.state.pa.us, and click on “Charities,” then “Information for Consumers,” or call (800) 732-0999 for the Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations hot line to find out if a charity is registered with the state. Websites like guidestar.org and charitynavigator.org are also great resources you can use to research legitimate charities.

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