South Carolina was part of an international effort to call attention to charity fraud.
The inaugural International Charity Fraud Awareness Week last week helped educate consumers and legitimate charities about safe, honest giving.
“South Carolina ranks in the top ten when it comes to charitable giving, so we receive a lot of solicitations here in the state,” Secretary of State Mark Hammond said. “We want our charitable donors to research these organizations and make sure they’re registered in the Secretary of State’s Office.”
Hammond said all the information consumers and donors need to investigate legitimate charities is available at his office’s website. Charities that operate within South Carolina must register with the Secretary of State.
If you are solicited by an unfamiliar charity, you can recheck the charity’s annual filing report to see how much of its contributions goes toward the charitable purpose. Hammond also recommended asking where the organization is located. “We want charitable donors here in South Carolina to give to these organizations,” he said. “But we want to make sure their contributions are going toward the charitable purpose.”
Hammond warned there is little regulation on donations through social media or crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe. Crowdfunding sites often have little control over who uses them and how donations are spent. The safest way to give on social media or through crowdfunding is to donate to people you actually know who contact you about a specific project. Don’t assume that solicitations on social media or crowdfunding sites are legitimate – even when they are shared or liked by your friends. Call or contact your friends offline and ask them about the post they shared.
“Beware of solicitations on social media as well as crowdfunding,” he said. “A lot of people like to donate but they like for their contributions to be tax-deductible and a lot of these solicitations are for individuals and they would not be tax deductible.”
Hammond said donations are tax-deductible only if they are given to a registered 501(c)3 non-profit.
“A lot of solicitations are received by a friend and we ask the people if they would make a contribution, that they contact that same friend and make sure that this person is not someone who is scamming them and needs help,” he said. “A lot of these solicitations with crowdfunding and social media are for individuals. So contributors should know that their contribution is not tax deductible because these are contributions going toward an individual. They would not have tax-exempt status.”
The Secretary of State’s website has a place where charities can be reported and investigated. Or you can call 1-888-CHARITI (242-7484).
“The public is our eyes and ears and most of the cases that we’re able to make gainst fraudulent charitable solicitations is from our complaint line and from tips that we receive from the public,” Hammond said.
Hammond is running for re-election as the Republican candidate. He is being challenged by Democrat Melvin Whittenburg.