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posted: 11/22/2013 5:50 PM

Madigan warns of fake 'charities'

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Daily Herald report

Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Friday her office has opened an investigation into improper fundraising tied to relief efforts under way in Washington, Ill., and urged residents who want to donate to be cautious in their giving.

"Unfortunately, in the wake of such devastation, we almost always receive reports of questionable fundraising efforts that try to take advantage of people wanting to help," Madigan said.

Madigan's Charitable Trust Bureau received a complaint regarding Heroes Memorial Foundation, an unregistered, out-of-state entity raising funds for victims of the weekend storms. Under Illinois law, fundraisers and charitable organizations are required to register each year with the attorney general's office.

Madigan's office offers these tips in choosing a charity:

• Ask how much of your donation will go to the charity and how much will pay fundraising costs. Solicitors must tell you if you ask.

• Pay close attention to the charity's name. Some fraudulent charities use names that sound or look like those of legitimate organizations.

• Ask detailed questions. Donate only when your questions have been answered and you are certain your money will be used according to your wishes. Ask whether the charity is registered with the Illinois Attorney General's office and what percentage of the money the charity takes in goes to fundraising, administration and charitable programming.

• Do not pay in cash. For security and tax record purposes, pay by check. Be sure to write the full official name of the charity on your check -- do not abbreviate.

• Request written information. A legitimate charity will provide you with information outlining its mission, how your donation will be distributed, and proof that your contribution is tax deductible.

• Do not donate if the solicitor uses high-pressure tactics, asks for cash payment or insists on sending someone to pick up your donation. These are all hallmarks of a scam.

• If you receive an email or text message asking for a donation, confirm that the request is from the charity by contacting the charity or visiting its website.

• Report suspicious solicitations to Madigan's Charitable Trust Bureau at (312) 814-2595.

Madigan says that whenever possible, keep notes detailing the date and time of the call, the organization's name, and the name of the solicitor. She also suggested trying to remember the "pitch" as well as other pertinent information.

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