Marathon Monday is right around the corner, falling on April 21 this year, and will be the 118th running with over 36,000 participants. Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern MA, ME, RI and VT (BBB) cautions consumers of illegitimate charities and scams surrounding the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing.
BBB urges donors to do their research before falling victim to fake fundraisers and charities. One charity consumers can be sure to trust is the One Fund. The One Fund Boston was formed on April 16, 2013 to help those most affected by the Marathon bombings. One Fund Boston is a tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) and contributions are tax-deductible. The Boston Athletic Association also offers an official list of their participating charities for the 2014 marathon on their website.
“With the one-year anniversary of the marathon bombings, scammers are looking to take advantage of donors,” said Paula Fleming, vice president of the local BBB. “We want to remind consumers to be extra careful with their money and to make sure their donation is going to an actual charity.”
BBB offers the following tips to avoid fake charities and fundraisers:
Thoughtful Giving. Take the time to check out the charity to avoid wasting your generosity by donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort. Be proactive and find trusted charities that are providing assistance.
State Government Registration. About 40 of the 50 states require charities to register with a state government agency before they solicit for charitable gifts. If the charity is not registered, that may be a significant red flag.
Respecting Victims and Their Families. Organizations raising funds should get permission from the families to use either their names and/or photographs of them. Some charities for the Colorado movie theatre and Newtown school victims did not do this and were the subject of criticism from victims’ families.
How Will Donations Be Used? Watch out for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. How will donations help victims’ families? Make sure the charity identifies when the collected funds will be used.
Online Cautions. Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in text messages or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware to your computer.
Financial Transparency. After funds are raised, it is even more important for organizations to provide an accounting of how funds were spent. Transparent organizations will post this information on their website so anyone can find out and not have to wait until the audited financial statements are available in the future.
Tax Deductibility. Not all organizations collecting funds are tax-exempt as charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donors can support these other entities but keep this in mind for federal income tax purposes. Contributions that are donor-restricted to help a specific individual/family are not deductible as charitable donations, even if the recipient organization is a charity.