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DeWine: Look Out for Possible Scams During Holiday Season

Monday, December 2, 2013 at 2:59 PM

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The holiday season is crunch time for charitable giving. And crooks know it. Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow says the state is advising givers to watch for red flags that might suggest a scam.

We’re heading into the Christmas season and wrapping up another year, which means more and more people are in the giving spirit. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says this is a popular time for people to donate to charities. Unfortunately that also means more con artists are coming out of the woodwork to take advantage of those kind-spirited givers.

“It just happens, and you know we’ve always had con artists around, but now they have the Internet,” DeWine said. “Now they have telemarketing. And so they have a much longer arm and they can reach clear across the country and rip you off.”

DeWine says these are some warning signs to possible scams: individuals representing unfamiliar organizations outside a store, charities soliciting through text messages and emails, and groups that offer a prize in exchange for a donation.

Also, if a group calls you over the phone asking for money, DeWine there’s no need to make a rushed decision. Instead, he says, ask that organization to send you more information through the mail.

“I mean if they’re a legitimate charity, they’ll send you some documentation, they’ll send you something,” he said. “That removes the impulse that’s involved and the high pressure (of) some kinds of tactics that are sometimes used over the phone. You can sit back at your leisure then and make a decision whether you want to contribute or don’t want to contribute.”

A clear problem is when a group asks for a Social Security number, bank account numbers or both. DeWine says no legitimate group needs that information.

The attorney general doesn’t want to scare people away from charitable giving, but encourages Ohioans to learn more about the group to which they want to donate. For DeWine, it’s just important to use caution before writing out that check.

“In the attorney general’s office, we just recommend that people be careful,” he said. “Most charitable contributions are fine, most charities are fine. But if anyone has a question they certainly can contact the Ohio attorney general’s office.”

DeWine’s office has a list of registered charities online. He says unregistered groups soliciting in Ohio could be questionable. Also on the website are resources to find out how much of your money is used for the actual cause and how much pays for the group’s overhead costs.

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