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CONSUMER ALERT: MAKE WISE CHOICES WHEN GIVING TO CHARITIES

LITTLE ROCK - The abundant generosity of Arkansans is never more apparent than it is during the holidays, when our State's residents open their hearts and their wallets to worthy charities.

Arkansas consistently rates among the top states for spending on philanthropic causes. On average, Natural State households donate 6.3 percent of their discretionary income to charity, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. That ranks Arkansas as the seventh most-giving state in the nation.

Unfortunately, scam artists, too, know of Arkansans' propensity for giving, and some may see the holiday season as an opportune time to target consumers with solicitations from phony charities. Therefore, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel today issued this consumer alert to encourage Arkansans to research charitable organizations before they give.

"Scam artists never take a holiday," McDaniel said. "It is important to know before making a charitable gift just how much of your donation will go toward the cause. The operators of some so-called charities may be more interested in lining their own pockets than helping those in need."

Arkansas law requires most charitable organizations to register with the Attorney General's Office before the organizations solicit money from Arkansas residents. The organizations must provide to the Office information about how they uses money collected through their fundraising. Consumers may determine whether a charity is registered with the State at www.ArkansasAG.gov.

For more detailed information about a specific charity, contact the Charities Division of McDaniel's office at (800) 482-8982. Registered charities are required to provide to the Attorney General's Office the percentage of money collected that is used for charitable program services, disclose administrative costs, and indicate whether the charity employs professional fundraisers.

McDaniel provided this additonal advice to consumers considering charitable donations:

Make sure donations to organizations with "police" and "fire" in their names actually go toward the law enforcement officers and firefighters they purport to benefit. Because those types of organizations often receive favorable responses from donors, phony charities sometimes put those words in their names.
Take the time to learn about the organization receiving the gift. Legitimate charities will not resort to high-pressure tactics to gain your donation, and will provide you with the information you need about their organizations as you make your philanthropic choice.
Check with the charitable organization directly before giving based on telephone, email or door-to-door solicitations.
Scam artists may try to create phony charities that sound similar to those of respected charities. Be on alert for those types of appeals.
Never give cash. For security and for tax purposes, be sure to donate only by credit card or check.
Legitimate charities will have an official address for you to mail your donation and will not offer to send someone to pick up your donation.

For more information about responsible charitable giving, visit the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division website at www.GotYourBackArkansas.org or call the Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 482-8982 or (501) 682-2341.

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