Charity Scams

Esther received a phone call from a charity that had a name similar to a national cystic fibrosis organization. Touched by the thought of helping children, she agreed to make a donation. Later, she saw a news report that the organization was not the charity she thought it was, but a scam operation.

The generosity of seniors makes them a favorite target of charity scams. To make the best use of your charitable dollars, always follow these three rules:

  1. Never agree to give money over the phone. Never give credit card or other personal information to a telephone solicitor. Ask the caller to send written information about the charity and read it before making your decision.

  2. Call the Michigan Attorney General's Office, Charitable Trust Section at (517) 373-1152, or visit the Attorney General's webpage at, to find out if the charity is licensed in Michigan, as required. Because not all charities are required to be licensed, call the Michigan Attorney General's Office if the organization is not listed.

  3. Find out what percentage of your donation goes to the charity's mission. Some charities use paid fund-raisers to make their phone calls, and the fund-raisers can keep a portion of your gift as their fee. You might choose instead to send your check directly to the charity.

Remember to BEWARE when you are asked to donate to a charity and the following methods are used:

Bills or invoices sent to you even though you never pledged money to the organization.

Evasive, vague, or unresponsive answers to specific questions about the charity and how money is used.

Words making up a charity's name that closely resemble a more well-known charity.

Allowing no time to reconsider your pledge; they insist on collecting your donation immediately.

Refusal to answer questions about where your money will go, refusal to send information about the charity, or refusal to provide a receipt.

Emotional appeals and high-pressure tactics to get you to make a quick decision or feel guilty about not contributing.


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What do I do if I think someone is using my identity fraudulently?

Immediately report it to one of the consumer reporting companies: Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; Experian 1-888-397-3742; or TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289.

The company you call is required to contact the other two companies. Also visit for other tips.

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