Consumer Protection
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How to Protect Yourself: Charitable Solicitations
Source: The Florida Attorney General's Office

Everyone receives countless solicitations by mail and telephone asking for donations to what seem like worthy causes. The problem is how to distinguish between the legitimate charitable cause and the scam.

Ask the solicitor or review written materials to determine if the organization is registered to solicit in your state.
In Florida you are entitled to obtain a copy of registration documents and a financial statement from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Tallahassee. You may call them at 1-800-HELP-FLA or visit their website at may also want to contact the National Charities Information Bureau at (212) 929-6300, as well as other state and local consumer agencies, to determine if the charity you are donating to has any outstanding complaints.

You should also be aware that:
Solicitors requesting donations for a law enforcement or emergency services group cannot claim to be a member of such a group if they are not. Solicitors are frequently paid hourly or receive a percentage of the amount of donations they collect and may not be affiliated or associated with the group on whose behalf they are collecting.

Solicitors are prohibited from stating that if you fail to donate to a law enforcement group you may receive reduced services.

While the law may not require that charities expend a certain amount or percentage of donations on the charitable purpose, you are always entitled to request information on the amount of money spent on the purpose, as well as how much is spent on salaries and other expenses. If you don't receive a satisfactory response, you may choose not to give that group your donation.

Copycat organizations may use names similar to a well-known charity in order to confuse you. Before you donate, make sure the charity to which you are giving is the charity you think it is.

Don't feel pressured into sending money right away. Ask for information about the charity in writing before donating. Many organizations will offer to send a courier to your house or office for immediate pickup of the donation. Tell them you would like to think about it or that you will mail it to them yourself.