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Donors Beware – Ensuring Your Holiday Donations Reach Those In Need

How to ensure a Grinch doesn’t take advantage of your generosity and donations reach those who need help the most.

As the holidays approach, Maryland Secretary of State John Wobensmith warns those looking to help the needy to beware of scam charities and deceptive practices waiting to take advantage of your generosity. Charities in Maryland and beyond rely upon the generosity of citizens to provide programs and services to those in need across Maryland and sadly all of those donations do not always reach those for whom they are intended.

Each year holidays inspire a spirit of generosity. Charities step up efforts to solicit donations during the holiday months. Many of us respond and give what we can to help. Unfortunately, scam artists also step up their efforts to prey upon generous hearts. 

Did you know that all charities who solicit money in Maryland must register with the Office of the Secretary of State before they can begin to solicit money? Before making a donation, check the Office of the Secretary of State’s website to confirm if a charity is authorized to raise money in Maryland.

Recognize red flags. Ask questions. Be suspicious of any charity that won’t answer your questions. Here are some additional red flags that should help you question whether a charity worthy of your support:

  • Did the organization refuse to send you written material or financial information?
  • Did the solicitor offer to send a person to collect your contribution?
  • Did the charity send you an invoice or statement that indicates a payment due for a contribution you never pledged?
  • Does the organization’s name and logo closely resemble another charity with a similar purpose?
  • Con artists abound. If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam, or change your mind and choose not to donate for any reason, it’s okay.
  • Did you know that you have the right to change your mind after you pledged to donate? Well, you do!

Call 800-825-4510 to check if a charity is registered. More information about charities can be found on the Secretary of State’s Charity page.

Should you encounter a fraudualent charity, the Secretary of State’s Office investigates complaints about possible scams. To report a potentially scam charity, contact the Investigations Unit at 410-260-3859 or 800-825-4510.

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