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CONSUMER ALERT: BE AN INFORMED GIVER

LITTLE ROCK - For many parents, the burden of buying back-to-school supplies can crush the family budget. Several Arkansas charities and businesses are stepping up to help families who simply can't afford to buy their own supplies.
The average family with children in K-12 will spend $688 on school supplies, according to the National Retail Federation's annual back-to-school survey. And 85 percent of shoppers say the economy has impacted how they shop for school supplies.
Arkansans are known for their generous charitable giving. As we approach the back-to-school season, many well-meaning and legitimate charities are working to help provide children with school supplies.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued a consumer alert today to give some tips to help those wanting to donate funds and school supplies avoid scams.

"Unfortunately, we must always be on the lookout for scam artists looking to take advantage of generosity," McDaniel said. "We want to make sure your charitable dollars are being used for your intended purpose."

Before You Give
Be an informed giver. Ask questions. Give only when you feel confident that your donation will support an organization and activities in which you believe. Refuse high-pressure appeals. Legitimate charities won't rush you to donate.
Ask for written information. A legitimate charity will send you information before you donate. Ask for information on the organization's mission, how your donation will be used, and proof that your contribution is tax deductible.
Call the charity. To avoid falling victim to sham solicitors, contact the charity directly before giving a donation by email, to the person knocking at your front door, or to the telephone solicitor.
Never give or pledge in response to a telephone solicitation until you have independently checked on the charity, or you know the caller on a first-name basis.
Watch out for similar sounding names. Scam artists often try to take advantage of names that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate charities.
Don't send cash. For your security and tax records, make your donation by check or credit card.
Be wary of any group that offers to pick up your monetary donation. A legitimate charity will have an official address where you can mail your donation. Be wary if an organization thanks you for a pledge you don't remember making and offers to send someone to pick up your donation.
Scrutinize fundraising appeals for police, firefighters, and veterans. Solicitations on behalf of these types of causes often draw favorable responses from donors. Because of this, scam artists often use the word "police" or "firefighter," even when the donations will not be used to support such causes.
Search the Arkansas Charities Database at http://www.arkansasag.gov/charity/search.php. In addition, the Charities Division of the Consumer Protection Division can provide information about the purpose of a charity, the amount of money a charity has raised in the past, the percentage of money collected that is used for charitable program services, the percentage that is used for administrative costs, and whether the charity employs the services of a professional
fundraiser.
For more information about consumer-related issues, or to file a complaint, visit GotYourBackArkansas.org or call the Consumer Protection Division's hotline at (800)
482-8982.

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