CONTACT: Tami Catania
Los Angeles: Hurricane Irene serves as a reminder for us all that natural disasters have a collateral impact – a flood of charitable appeals from new, unfamiliar and sometimes fraudulent organizations. Many Angelenos respond to these pleas with generous donations of money, goods and services.
The Charitable Services Section (CSS) of the Los Angeles Police Commission advises Angelenos, however, to take the following steps in distinguishing frauds from 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 should possess an Information Card for general appeals, and one for each special event. Mailed solicitations must include a copy of the Information Card.
The Los Angeles Municipal Code relates to IRS designated 501(c) 3 nonprofits. (Your donations are tax deductible). It also relates to people and organizations who solicit for donations on behalf of 501(c) 3 nonprofits.
Information Cards may be valid for up to one year after issuance.
Evaluate the charity
Answer the following questions before donating:
Are the charity’s expenses uncomfortably high? How much revenue goes toward the cause itself? The Information Card contains the results of similar past events. Also, ask the charity for a financial statement or check its federal Form 990.
Is the charity legitimate? Check with CSS and on the Internet for the organization’s Web site and the State of California Attorney General’s office (see below for Web Site).
Is the solicitor legitimate? Does the solicitor possess a valid Information Card? Contact the charity to verify the solicitor. Beware of sound-a-likes – check with the agency they 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. However, it is best not to give any personal information over the telephone.
Beware of email/Internet appeals/social networking sites
Unsolicited emails should be ignored, as they may contain viruses. Do not respond or click on links or attachments.
Beware of people claiming to be victims or making “official” requests for donations.
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 Los Angeles Municipal Code ordinance governing charities, visit the Charitable Services Section Web site at www.lapdonline.org. Search for “charitable” and click on “charitable services section.”
National Center for Disaster Fraud. The Center can assist if you have been a victim of fraud by people claiming to solicit for disaster relief, or if you are witness to fraudulent requests for disaster relief.
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.