Los Angeles: Call it the perfect charity storm: As the U.S. economy recovers from a recession, the Philippines in the past month faced the ravages of a major earthquake and a massive typhoon. Now, the holiday season has begun. Angelenos can expect more than the usual flood of holiday charitable appeals.
While many Angelenos generously provide money, goods and services during the holidays, more charities are vying for their limited funds. And, as usual, not all appeals are legitimate.
The Charitable Services Section (CSS) of the Los Angeles Police Commission advises Angelenos to beware of fraudulent appeals. Take the following steps to distinguish the frauds from the worthy charities. Give, but Give Wisely.
Ask to see the required Information Cards issued by the CSS.
Nonprofit organizations that solicit within the city limits of Los Angeles are required to possess an Information Card for general appeals and one for each special event. Mailed solicitations must include a copy of the Information Card. The cards may be valid for up to one year after issuance.
The Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) concerns nonprofits registered as 501(c) 3 organizations with the IRS. Donations to these organizations are tax deductible. The LAMC also relates to people and organizations who solicit for donations on behalf of 501(c) 3 nonprofits.
Evaluate the charity.
Answer the following questions before donating:
• How much of your donation will cover the charity’s expenses and how much will go to the cause? The City of Los Angeles Information Card contains these results for similar past events. Also, ask the charity for a financial statement and/or check its IRS Form 990.
• Is the charity legitimate? Contact CSS and explore the web sites of the charity, and of the State of California Attorney General’s Office (See below)
• Is the solicitor legitimate? Does the solicitor possess a valid Information Card? Contact the charity to verify the solicitor is a current employee or volunteer. Beware of sound-a-likes – check with the agency the solicitors claim to represent. Alert your local police station if they are soliciting illegally.
• Will the charity take noncash payments? It is highly recommended that you donate with a check or credit card. Nevertheless, it is best not to give any personal information over the telephone.
Beware of email/Internet appeals/social networking sites
• Unsolicited emails may contain viruses. Do not respond or click on links or attachments.
Contact the following:
• Charitable Services Section, Los Angeles Police Commission. The Police Commission Charitable Services Section is here to assist with your questions. The section may be reached at 213 996-1260. For further information about Giving Wisely or the LAMC ordinance governing charities, visit the Charitable Services Section Web site at www.lapdonline.org. Search for “charitable” and click on “charitable services section.
• FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center. Contact the Center at www.jc3.gov to report suspicious emails or websites.
• The California State Attorney General. The Attorney General’s Web site at www.ag.ca.gov has additional information regarding your charity.