9OYS Consumer Alert

Experts: Make sure your money goes to legitimate charities

CREATED Dec 6, 2012

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Reporter: Justin Schecker

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Now is the time when charities receive a boost in donations -- but before you give, you need to make sure your money is going to a legitimate organization. 

Patti Caldwell is the executive director of Our Family Services, a local non-profit that qualifies for the Arizona Working Poor Tax Credit. With her 30 years of experience working for non-profits in Tucson, Caldwell said she considers donors to be investors. 

"We just want to be sure those donors invest their money wisely and really give their money to an organization that uses that money to benefit the clients that the donors care about," Caldwell said. 

A bad experience with a phony charity may deter someone from giving to an organization in the future that really needs the help, Caldwell said.  

Since now's the time when most people are looking to give, Caldwell advises you to first check out a non-profit's website. There you should find transparent details about where the money goes, she said. 

"To the extent that they get any push back from the organization itself about sharing financials, details about how their dollars would be used, and proof of how those dollars would be used, they should back away," Caldwell told 9 On Your Side.

The Southern Arizona Better Business Bureau warns potential donors to look out for other red flags. 

"Some charities will make very strong emotional appeals in their solicitations, but offer very few details of what they are doing to address the problem, or what their programs entail," Southern Arizona BBB spokesman Nick LaFleur said.

Other tips from the BBB include making a contribution via checks made payable to the charity and by checking the Secretary of State's website to make sure the charity is soliciting legally. . 

To avoid scammers, LaFleur told 9 On Your Side fake charities will often pick names that are similar to well-known groups.

The Southern Arizona BBB also reviews charities and has accredited more than 450 local non-profit organizations.