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Many people choose to give charitably during the holidays, but residents should be wary about scams aimed to cheat generous donors.
"If there's a way to cheat someone out of money, someone will think of it," said Catawba County Chief Deputy Coy Reid.
Reid said receiving requests for donations through the phone should immediately send up a red flag.
"We get people about once a year who call people to say they're collecting money for the sheriff's office," Reid said, "but we don't do that. We're not allowed to."
If anyone calls requesting donations, Reid advised asking the caller for a list of previous donors and a return number, so you can investigate the organization before donating.
Another red flag for donation scams is organizations that ask for personal information from donors, such as Social Security numbers or bank account details.
"Legal companies don't ask you for that information anyway," Reid said.
Reid suggested people who don't want to receive phone call soliciting funds should place their names on the National Do Not Call Registry. The registry is designed to block calls from telemarketers and other solicitors.
Another way to stay safe is to research the organization before you donate. Reid said it's smart to calculate exactly how much money will go to a charity or other organization, including service fees and other possible charges.
He advised asking the organization exactly who your donation will benefit and how much will go directly to the charity.
For the Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian Ministry, properly utilizing donations is important in the ministry's continued operation. About 93 cents of every dollar the ministry receives will provide services for GHCCM clients, according to Executive Director Dr. Roger Baker.
The ministry experienced a 160 percent increase in request for crisis intervention services since last year, Baker said.
Some organizations, however, aren't transparent about where their donations are spent and how the gifts are utilized.
"Before you give, take the time to learn where your money will go and how it will be used," said N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper in a press release.
The Attorney General's Office said charities get about 40 percent of money collected by telemarketers on charities' behalf, with some telemarketers taking as much as 90 percent.
According to North Carolina law, potential donors have the right to ask organizations what percent of their donations will benefit the charity. By law, the telemarketer must provide that information to the donor within 14 days.
Reid also suggested contacting the Better Business Bureau for information and business practices of charities or other organizations requesting holiday donations.
"Telemarketers that refuse to answer your questions, offer to pick up your donation or pressure you for a credit card number are usually up to no good," Cooper said.
The N.C. Attorney General's Office also suggests donating money to an organization you've worked with before or volunteering your time instead of writing a check.
If you suspect fraud, contact the Attorney General's Office, file an online complaint at www.ncdoj.gov or call (877) 5-NO-SCAM.