Wise Giving Tips for the Holiday Season

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Secretary of State Scott Gessler today reminded Coloradans to be vigilant of potential charity scams during the holiday season. Many Coloradans are generous during the holidays, donating to fund the good work charities do in communities across the state. Unfortunately, there are bad actors who try to take advantage of this generosity with scams. Secretary Gessler reminds Coloradans of tips to avoid scams and be sure their donations get to the right place.

  • If you get solicited to donate over the phone, you may want to ask if the caller is a paid fundraiser. If so, you may also want to ask:
    • The percentage of your donation that will go to the charity;
    • How much will go to the specific program or cause to which you’re donating;
    • How much will go to the fundraiser.
  • Be especially wary of an organization that offers to send a courier to pick up your check. If solicited in person, ask to see identification for both the solicitor and the charity.
  • Be aware that The Federal Trade Commission’s Telemarketing Sales Rule requires paid solicitors to put you on the charity’s internal Do Not Call list upon request.
  • If you feel uncomfortable about a solicitor on the phone, just say “No thank you” or hang up.
  • Call the charity to see if it is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. By law, you must have written authorization to solicit contributions on behalf of a charity or another person.
  • Verify with local charities any claims that the soliciting charity will support local organizations.
  • Watch out for charities with names that sound similar to well-known organizations. Sometimes these sound-alike names are simply intended to confuse donors.
  • Do not click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware onto your computer. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other social media have already been vetted.
  • Be wary if the charity does not want to provide information about its programs and finances. Reputable charities welcome questions from potential donors, so don’t hesitate to ask questions or request materials by mail.
  • Be wary if the organization says you agreed to make a contribution and you don’t remember doing so.
  • Beware of unsolicited email. Instead, go directly to the organization’s website or call to make donations.
  • Ask whether the charitable contribution is tax deductible, and verify with your tax advisor or the IRS. The fact that a charity has a tax identification number does not necessarily mean your contribution is tax-deductible. Ask for a receipt showing the amount of the contribution and stating that it is tax-deductible.
  • Do not pay in cash – donate by check made payable to the charity or fund and mail directly to the charity.

For more information, please visit our website or see our extended list of wise giving tips. For tips specific to giving online and through social media, see our Internet and Social Media Wise Giving Tips.

If you believe that you have been solicited by a fraudulent charity, please file a complaint with the Secretary of State, or the Attorney General 1-800-222-4444.


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