How To Avoid Scam Artist When Donating To Katrina Relief Efforts
The pictures and videos of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina are sadly stunning. As is true for our great nation, millions are lining up to donate to help those that have been impacted. While your actions are a shining example of the best traits of people, a few unsavory groups are trying to make a profit off of the tragedy.
You can avoid these scam artists by taking a few simple steps. Charitable organizations rely on tax-deductible contributions as their primary funding source. Before an organization can offer the benefit of a tax deduction for donations, it must be classified as such by the Internal Revenue Service. The process is arduous and effectively acts as an informal investigation of the legitimacy of the charitable organization in question. Fortunately, the IRS makes this information available to the public.
You can check the legitimacy of a charitable organization by either contacting the IRS or accessing the agency list of charitable organizations on the Internet as follows:
IRS Customer Service: 1-800-829-1040
The above link goes to a page where you can conduct a publication 78 search. Publication 78 is a list of all charitable organizations that have qualified for tax-exempt status with the IRS. Scam artist and unsavory characters are not going to be listed with the IRS. If the organization you are considering does not appear in Publication 78, you may wish to consider another organization.
You should be cautious if you receive an e-mail requesting money for the relief effort. The e-mail may not be from a legitimate organization. Fraudulent e-mail campaigns are at an unbelievable level. If you are determined to make a contribution because of an e-mail you received, make sure that you check out the organization with the IRS as indicated above.
Unfortunately, there is a second problem with responding to an e-mail solicitation for monetary donations. Assume that you regularly make donations to a large charity organization and you receive a request for a donation from that organization to help with the tragedy in New Orleans and beyond. You can safely click the link in the email and make a donation, correct? Maybe not. There is still a risk that the email is a scam. Many online businesses have ongoing problems with scam artists copying their sites, logos, headings, etc., and sending e-mail solicitations to scam individuals. There is no reason to believe that charitable organizations would be any less of a target, so be careful.
If you still are compelled to respond to an email solicitation with a donation, you should use a search engine to search for the organization listed in the email. Once you click on to the site, you can make a donation in confidence.
The devastation cause by Katrina is there for all to see. By following the above recommendations, you can make sure your donation gets to the people in need.
About the Author: Richard A. Chapo is with http://www.businesstaxrecovery.com - providing tax help to small businesses that overpay their taxes.