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Don’t be a victim of charity scams
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People naturally want to help victims of disaster if they can. Unfortunately, less scrupulous people often take advantage of tragedies to set up charity scams.

Larry Krick, chief investigator with Pinellas County’s Justice and Consumer Services, advises residents to beware of solicitations on behalf of victims of natural disasters, such as the earthquake in Haiti.

He said before giving, residents should ask for the full name of the organization. He said not to judge whether the solicitation is legitimate solely on the name as scammers often use names similar to well-known organizations.

He also advised people to ask to see the organizations financial and other information, such as a brochure that explains their mission and how the money is spent. He said any legitimate organization would be happy to send out whatever is requested.

“Credible charities do not use high pressure techniques,” he said. “Scammers will use high pressure to get you to give immediately so they can get the money and move on.”

Krick also said to be aware that some organizations pay solicitors who are paid for, in part, with your donation.

Ask if the donation is tax deductible. Donations to credible charities will be tax deductible.

“If you have a feeling that something’s not right, listen to you inner voice,” Krick said. “Ask for information.”

Avoid giving cash donations, he said. Always use a check payable to the organization. Never write a check to an individual who says they’ll pass the money on to the charity.

Charities operating in the state of Florida must be registered, Krick said. People can see a list of registered charities and other information by visiting www.800helpfla.com or calling 1-800-435-7352.

Residents of Pinellas County who think they may have been the victim of a scam or need help, can call Justice and Consumer Services at 727-464-6200.
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