Jacksonville Residents Alert BBB About Local Charity Scam

December 16, 2013

December 16, 2013 Jacksonville, FL The holidays are fast approaching and with them are scam artists desperate to grab a little extra cash during this special time of the year. BBB has received word of a new scam that involves a fake church organization advertising on craigslist that seems to be taking from the needy instead of giving. Here is what we know.

The victims are desperate, utilities have been shut off and are they are in danger of finding themselves homeless. At the end of their rope the victims have applied for assistance. After finding out they don’t qualify for much of anything they see a craigslist ad by an organization claiming to represent a community church that helps local citizens in tough financial situations. They offer to pay overdue bills in return for a donation that goes to help other needy families. They pay the victims past due debts over the phone by check. After confirming there is a zero balance the victims then submit their donation to the group. Seems like a win-win for both parties, right?

Wrong, a few weeks after the donations are made, the check by phone that the fake organization used comes back as a bad check. The victims are then out the funds used for the donation and worse off financially than before they started seeking assistance. When trying to contact the phony organization again the phone number is not accepting calls. There is no recourse.

If you are in need of assistance, BBB recommends you check out the organization thoroughly. The state of Florida requires that charities actively soliciting register with the Department of Consumer Services as a non-profit organization. They must be transparent with their fund allocation before they are approved for this designation.

BBB is unaware if this bogus non-profit is seeking solicitations in other formats. If you are considering donating to a charity make your contribution count.

Here are tips from your BBB to consider when giving money to charity:

· Take your time - Don’t feel pressured to give money right away. A legitimate charity should accept your donation at any time and won’t pressure donors into giving immediately. Research the charity to make sure it’s a wise giving decision. Go to bbb.org/charity to verify that it meets BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. There are more than 11,000 free national charity reviews available through BBB Wise Giving Alliance. Donors should also check to see if a soliciting charity is registered with the Florida online database of charities.

  • Identify the charity - With countless charities in existence, it’s easy to confuse similarly-named organizations. Make sure to know which charity you’re supporting and ask for or identify a phone number and physical address. It’s recommended to donate to a charity after directly confirming its legitimacy, rather than giving in response to a phone call or by clicking an email link.
  • Think twice before donating in cash - Check or credit card contributions will be easier to track and dispute, if necessary. If donating by check, only make it out to the charity and not an individual. Never send a money transfer to an individual for a charity. Keep proof of any tax-deductible contributions for tax time.
  • Ask where and how your donation will be used - How much money a charity spends on the actual cause, as compared to how much is spent on fundraising and administrative costs is important. There are other factors to also take into consideration though, such as transparency and board activity.
  • Give to a charity for the right reason - Don’t make a donation based solely on an impressive marketing campaign or because the individual names associated with a charity impress you.

Remember, you can donate to charities with items rather than money, such as hats, coats and toys. Also, consider donating your time to volunteer.

For more BBB Wise Giving tips, visit our website bbb.org/charity.

To check the reliability of a company or find trustworthy businesses visit bbb.org.

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