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Kemp: As Georgia prepares for Hurricane Michael, watch out for disaster relief scams

ATLANTA – As Georgia prepares for severe weather due to Hurricane Michael, Secretary of State Brian Kemp encourages everyone to be vigilant for disaster relief scams. The aftermath of a natural disaster is a ripe opportunity for con artists to take advantage of donors and divert precious resources from those in need. Before you donate, Kemp advises thorough vetting of organizations soliciting contributions for aid and highlights several independent resources to utilize for charitable giving.

“Georgians have always demonstrated an eagerness to lend a helping hand to those in need. Sadly, bad actors are ready to take advantage of this kindness and steal critical resources from people who desperately need assistance, especially in the wake of a natural disaster like Hurricane Michael,” stated Secretary Kemp. “As we prepare for the storm’s imminent impact across significant portions of our state, we should be vigilant in all aspects, prioritizing our personal safety and, in the event of severe damage and displacement, lending assistance through vetted avenues to ensure that our charity reaches the intended recipients. At the outset, we must be mindful of this storm’s potential consequences, and we must give wisely in its aftermath.”

Secretary Kemp and his Charities Division issue these tips for wise charitable giving:
• Use online resources like the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and Charity Watch which provide detailed information about non-profit organizations to research charities and review the organization’s own website before contributing.
• Take the time to make sure that your money is really going to help those in need and ask how much of your donation will go to the cause. The percentage of your contribution that a charity spends on fundraising activities, employee salaries, or expenses which do not directly support the charity’s stated mission varies by organization.
• Be careful about email solicitations, especially unsolicited emails. Scammers can easily create fake email addresses to look like emails from a real charity, and it is easy to embed a malicious link in an email. Do not open suspicious emails or links unless you expected the email and know exactly where your money is going.
• Be wary of phone solicitations, and ask the individual to put the request in writing and provide detailed information about the charity and its program. Also, ask if the person conducting the solicitation is a volunteer or a paid fundraiser for that charity. Never give your credit card, debit card, or bank account information to a telephone solicitor.
• Be particularly cautious of couriers willing to rush out to your home or business to pick up your contribution. Avoid sending cash donations, and do not make payments to individuals. Donate by credit card or check directly to the charity. If your contribution exceeds $250, you should receive a letter from the charity confirming its charitable status as well as the donation amount.
• Not all organizations with charitable-sounding names are actually charities. Be sure you know exactly who is asking for your contribution because many organizations adopt names confusingly similar to well-known charities.
• If a tax deduction is important to you, make sure the organization has a tax-deductible status with the Internal Revenue Service. “Tax exempt,” “non-profit," and “tax-deductible” are not synonymous. Only “tax-deductible” means your contribution is deductible on your income tax return. If you contribute to a charity, make sure you get a receipt which shows the amount of your contribution and states that the contribution is tax-deductible. The IRS has a searchable database of organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.

Georgians should contact and report any suspicious charitable activity or solicitations to the Secretary of State's Charities Division by calling (404) 654-6021 or submitting a complaint via email to charities@sos.ga.gov.

Submitted 10.10.18