Welcome to the Department of Justice, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

For immediate release -- Thursday, November 12, 1998.

Miller Issues Warning about Charity Scams

Iowa joins "Operation Missed Giving" - an enforcement and education project by 44 States and the FTC to prevent charity fraud.

DES MOINES--Attorney General Tom Miller warned Iowans today to be on the lookout for questionable charity schemes, especially as the Thanksgiving and holiday season approaches. "Donor, beware. That's the maxim we urge people to heed," Miller said.

"This is the biggest time of year for charitable donations," he said. "Con-artists and questionable charities will be out in force as well. People need to take several precautions to be sure their gifts are put to good use and aren't wasted."

Miller's warning came as part of "Operation Missed Giving," a coordinated enforcement and education effort by at least 44 states and the Federal Trade Commission. The AARP and other organizations also are cooperating in the project.

Miller issued his office's monthly "Consumer Advisory" bulletin on the subject, "Don't Be Taken When You Give to Charity" - how to avoid fraud and make the most of your donations. The Advisory goes to several thousand organizations and news media around the state, especially to area aging agencies and other organizations serving older Iowans.

The Advisory suggests several tips people should take to avoid charity fraud, including:

  • Give directly to a known charity of your choice, especially to local charities.

  • Ask telephone solicitors to send written information. Ask if the caller is a paid professional fundraiser, and ask exactly what percentage of your donation will go for the charitable purpose.
  • Don't be fooled by "look-alike" names that make the so-called charity sound like known reputable health or law enforcement organizations.

  • Never send cash through the mail and don't give your credit card number over the telephone unless you are certain the charity is legitimate.

"Questionable charities cheat donors and they siphon money away from the people who truly need help," Miller said. "They hurt the legitimate organizations that rely on donations."

The Consumer Protection Division in Miller's Office has undertaken several cases against questionable charities in recent years, including charities purporting to benefit veterans, local police and firefighters.

Miller encouraged persons with complaints or questions to write to the Consumer Protection Division, Attorney General's Office, Hoover Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. The phone number is 515-281-5926.

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