Oregon Department of Justice

Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum

Oregon Department of Justice - Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum
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Oregonians Warned Of Frequent Problems Associated With Charitable Giving

December 23, 2004

During this holiday season, Attorney General Hardy Myers hopes Oregonians continue to generously contribute to charities but warns that they should give wisely by being aware of some of the more frequent problems associated with charitable giving.

"Charities play an invaluable role in our society as they support and carry out much of the education, religious, artistic, health and welfare activities in our country," Myers explained. "Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between legitimate, worthwhile charities and imposters. Oregonians should seek out available information from state and federal agencies and non-profit, public service organizations before making charitable contributions."

Nationally, individual donors make up an estimated 80 percent of the money donated to charities and by taking time to reach a decision, they can be sure that the causes they support are worthy of their help.

There are more than 9,500 operating charities based in Oregon with combined annual revenue of over $1 billion. The charities, by law, must register with the Oregon Department of Justice and file annual reports. Oregonians can inspect those reports at the Charitable Activities office in Portland at (503) 229-5725. Much of the same information is available on the Justice website at www.doj.state.or.us.

In addition to researching charities, consumers should follow these tips to avoid being taken advantage of over the holiday season:

  • Do not give to unregistered charities. Call the Justice Charitable Activities section for registration information (503) 229-5725.
  • Any organization receiving more than $25,000 is required to file an annual financial report (IRS Form 990) with the IRS and the Attorney General's charitable activities office. These are public records and available for public inspection during normal business hours. Most organizations' 990 forms also are available online at www.guidestar.org.
  • Do not give to charities with records of complaints. Call the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 2295725 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392 and the Better Business Bureau at (503) 226-3981.
  • Be aware that professional fundraisers often retain 70 cents or more of every dollar donated in response to telephone solicitations. Ask callers what percentage of your contribution will be used for program services before agreeing to give.
  • Do not give cash. Legitimate charities will take a check and many take credit cards.
  • Do not succumb to high-pressure sales tactics. No legitimate organization will insist that you contribute immediately.
  • Be careful about pledges a caller claims you made but you don't remember. If you have doubts, check your records.
  • Be careful not to give personal information such as your social security number or mother's maiden name to anyone soliciting over the telephone or at your door.
  • Be alert to false claims of tax-deductibility. Make sure the charity has tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Resist the urge to donate impulsively to callers identifying themselves as local police or firefighters. Call the local organization mentioned by the telemarketer and verify the claims.
  • Remember, even if your landline and cell phone numbers are on the National Do Not Call Registry, under the federal law, some types of calls are exempt. Calls from or on behalf of charities are permitted along with political organizations and telephone surveyors. Organizations with which you have an established business relationship can call you for up to 18 months after your last purchase, payment or delivery.

Seniors, who want additional information about charitable giving, may request a wise giving brochure by calling the Attorney General's hotline, by email at consumer.hotline@doj.state.or.us or by writing Justice Charitable Activities, 1515 SW Fifth Avenue, Suite 410, Portland, Oregon 97201.

Contact:

Kevin Neely, Justice, (503) 378-6002
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) jan.margosian@doj.state.or.us |
Victoria Cox, (971) 673-1880
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