As another year-end approaches, many people may consider what charities to donate to before 2007 comes to a close. It is important to research charities you may be unfamiliar with - and to make sure they are legitimate - before giving them your hard earned money.
Fraudulent charities are often designed to sound similar to legitimate charities to fool consumers. Registered charities can be found on the Canadian Revenue Agency website (http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/). You can also access information on the site that addresses donations as tax shelters. But be wary of charities that stress their value as a tax shelter.
If you have time, it's a good idea to visit the charity's office or website to learn more about their work and how much of each donation goes to the program, rather than charity administration. Regardless of how you do your research, check out the charity, make sure it's legitimate, and that you support the work it does.
Every year, consumers need to watch for new scams. This year, it's the "EU Humanitarian Grant" scam. Thanks to Georgette Whitehead of Campbell River, who first alerted us to this offer to help donors direct special grants to the charity of their choice. The catch is that donors have to pay added fees so the grant can be directed to their favourite charity. Once the scammers get the money, the grant never materializes.
The legitimate European Commission provides grants and funding for programs, but e-mails sent out from the similar sounding "EU Humanitarian Grant" are a scam. It has circulated in England and Europe for a few months, but recently migrated to Vancouver Island.
The BBB offers these suggestions regarding donations:
1. Do not give cash. Always contribute by cheque and make it payable to the charity, not the individual collecting the donation.
2. Keep records of your donations (receipts, cancelled cheques and bank statements) so you can document your charitable giving at tax time.
3. Don't be fooled by names that look impressive or that closely resemble the name of a well-known organization.
4. Check out the organization with the Canadian Revenue Agency or the United Way.
5. If you receive unwanted charity mail and phone calls, contact the Canadian Marketing Association at www.the-cma .org or toll-free at 1-800-267-8805 and ask to be added to their "Do Not Contact" service.