Dealing With Solicitations From Charities

Solicitations from charities come in many forms — e-mail, letters, phone calls or a person at your door. Here are some tips to sort out the requests and ensure your donation goes to a legitimate charity — and not a scam artist:

Telephone solicitations

— Don't pledge a donation over the phone, advises the Federal Trade Commission. Instead, ask that the charity mail you information about its programs and practices.

— If the telephone solicitor claims that the charity will support local organizations, call those organizations to verify.

— Never provide your bank or credit card information over the phone. Make your donation via a mailed check instead — once you've checked out the charity thoroughly.

Mail or e-mail solicitations

— By law, you aren't required to pay for any gift sent as an enticement to donate, reports the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Donation requests sent in the form of invoices or bills should be reported to your local Better Business Bureau.

— Mailed information about a charity should give you specific details about the charity's programs and how its operations are run. Avoid donating to programs that are heavy on heartfelt appeal but lack basic details about the charity and its programs.

In-person solicitations

— Ask to see the solicitor's personal identification.

— Get literature about the charity, as well as its full mailing address.

— Ask questions. Legitimate charity representatives should be knowledgeable about the charity's programs and practices, and will be happy to answer your questions.

— If you're asked to buy items — candy, magazine subscriptions, etc. — to benefit a charity, find out what the charity's share will be.

— Don't donate if the solicitor uses pressure tactics — defined by the BBB as intimidation, threats, or repeated visits.

— If you decide to donate, write a check to the charity — not the solicitor.