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Putnam reminds consumers to research charities before giving

Posted on Monday, September 18, 2017 at 12:32 pm

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam is reminding Floridians to research charitable organizations prior to contributing.

Often in the wake of disasters, such as hurricanes, fraudulent charities are created to take advantage of people’s generosity.

“Floridians are generous and will no doubt rise up to help one another in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Before making any charitable contributions, do your research at FloridaConsumerHelp.com so you know how your charitable contribution will be spent,” said Putnam.

The Check-A-Charity resource available at FloridaConsumerHelp.com provides financial information that charitable organizations report to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Charitable organizations are required to register with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services prior to soliciting contributions in Florida, and those that raise $50,000 or more in the aftermath of natural disasters or other crises must submit specific documentation to the department.

In the wake of a storm or other disaster, such as Hurricane Irma, charitable organizations must submit financial information regarding contributions and program service expenses on a quarterly basis, except for charitable organizations that have been registered with the department for at least four consecutive years. The department will post a notice on its website of each disaster or crisis that is subject to the reporting requirements of this section within 10 days after the disaster or crisis.

Before making a charitable contribution, people can follow these tips:

  • Ask questions, such as: “Who is the fundraiser and who will benefit from the donation?”; “How much of the contribution goes to the charity mentioned in the request”; and “How much of the donation goes toward administrative and fundraising expenses?”;
  • Check if the charitable organization is registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services by visiting FloridaConsumerHelp.com;
  • Research the charitable organization at FreshFromFlorida.com to see how much of a donation will go toward the individuals the charity intends to help versus operating expenses;
  • Browse Check-A-Charity;
  • Report any suspicious charitable solicitations by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832).

Putnam worked closely with the Florida Legislature in 2014 to strengthen laws to protect consumers from charity-related scams by: banning organizations that have violated certain laws in other states from soliciting funds in Florida; prohibiting felons from soliciting funds for charity; requiring professional solicitors who operate like telemarketers to provide fingerprints for background checks; requiring a charity that receives more than $1 million, but spends less than 25 percent on its cause, to provide detailed information; and increasing fines for fraudulent or deceptive acts in violation of the law.

For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.