ANNAPOLIS, Md.—While Giving Tuesday is a day that marks the season of helping others, the Maryland Secretary of State’s Office and the Maryland Office of the Attorney General warn that this year’s holiday season comes with an increased urgency to protect against scam artists preying on generous donors.
“The holidays are a peak season for charitable giving as Marylanders open their hearts and wallets to donate to charities and those in need, ” said Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith. “While we are grateful to our reputable charities, we urge our citizens to be on alert for scam artists who take advantage of unsuspecting donors and to exercise caution in order to protect their financial information.”
Together with the Attorney General’s Office, the Secretary of State’s Office works to ensure that charitable contributions go to qualified charitable organizations and are used for their intended purpose.
The Maryland Secretary of State is responsible for registering and regulating charitable organizations and their professional solicitors who operate in Maryland. Current Maryland law mandates that charities are registered with the Secretary of State and reveal to the public their financial and programmatic activities. Marylanders can search the Public Registry of Charities on Maryland One Stop to see if a charity is registered in the state.
“Now more than ever, it is important to arm Maryland’s donors with tips and information to guard against charity fraud and scams, ” said Attorney General Brian E. Frosh. “Giving Tuesday and the holiday season inspire many of us to donate, and Maryland is home to many reputable charities deserving of our generous donations. Donors have a right to ask questions and make informed decisions so that charitable contributions are not wasted.”
Here are some tips on how to avoid a charity scam this Giving Tuesday and year-round:
- Research before you give. Visit an online resource, such as Charity Navigator, that provides in-depth information on thousands of verified charities.
- Beware of social media sites that promote charitable organizations.
- If a telemarketer calls asking for a donation by phone, ask questions first and request additional information by email or mail.
- Pay close attention to the name and logo, and make sure that the charity you are donating to is the one you intended to give to.
- Practice healthy skepticism about any solicitor or charity that pressures you on the spot to donate without satisfactorily answering your questions.
- After verifying that a charity is reputable, it’s best to donate by check or credit card.
If you think that you have been a victim of a charity fraud or scam, contact the Office of the Secretary of State, Charities and Legal Services Division by email at DLInvestigations_SOS@maryland.gov or by telephone at 410-974-5534.
For more tips on smart giving, please view the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, Consumer Protection Division publication Consumer’s Edge Charitable Giving Tips.