December 18, 2014

Office of Consumer Protection Advises Residents to Choose Charities, Donate Carefully

The Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) warns County residents to be cautious when donating to charities and other causes.

Our community has stepped up to raise money and needed items for the families affected by the recent  plane crash tragedy in the County. However, it is important to remember that scammers often use tragedies to take advantage of people.

Consumers are encouraged to:
  • Verify a charity’s non-profit status. 
  • Review how money is spent by the charity. How much money is used for administrative costs? 
  • Know the difference between “tax exempt” and “tax deductible.” 
  • Be careful of similar sounding names. A scammer may use a familiar or generic name such as Police Fund to trick you into donating. 
New fundraising vehicles are also available to individuals and groups seeking donations. For example, there is crowd-funding, the practice of funding a project or cause by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people. Crowd-funding is typically done on the internet through websites including Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and gofundme.

OCP offers the following advice to consumers:
  • Donate only to users that you know and trust. It is easy to verify a relative’s fundraising request; however, responding to a local tragedy or catastrophe may take some research on your part. Verify that the donation is going to a legitimate source. 
  • Be careful about bogus websites claiming to be donation centers. 
  • Be aware of any fees associated with a platform. Always read the fine print and remember that the method of payment may involve additional fees. 
  • Verify requests from people you know. Scammers often hack personal email accounts and use the information to steal money. 

For more information, call 240-777-3636 or visit OCP’s website.