COLUMBUS — Some Ohioans have reported receiving suspicious calls asking for donations supposedly to support police and fire causes, according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
The calls reportedly ask consumers to give money to support wounded police officers and firefighters, underfunded departments, scholarship funds for families of officers, or similar causes. Consumers say the callers refuse to answer questions or to provide viable call-back numbers.
The calls appear to come from Ohio phone numbers, but the numbers could be spoofed or the calls could be made over the Internet, meaning the caller could be located somewhere else entirely.
“Charity scams take money away from legitimate organizations,” Attorney General DeWine said. “While we encourage people to be generous, we also encourage them to be cautious. A little research can go a long way. If you get a call asking for a donation, check it out to make sure it’s not a scam.”
Signs of a potential charity scam include callers who:
• Make vague claims about a cause.
• Use a name similar to a well-known organization.
• Provide little or no detailed information.
• Refuse to answer questions.
• Refuse to provide a call-back number.
• Use a “spoofed” phone number.
• Demand immediate payment.
• Ask for payment via wire transfer or prepaid card.
• Ask for payment to an individual instead of an organization.
Not all calls seeking charitable donations are potential scams. Legitimate charities and professional solicitors, which generally are for-profit businesses paid to collect donations, can and do seek donations over the phone. When a charitable organization calls a consumer seeking a donation, the caller must provide the name of the organization and the location of its principal place of business. Professional solicitors also must provide this basic information.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section maintains a registry of charitable organizations and professional solicitors that raise money in Ohio. Both must annually file informational returns or financial reports with the Attorney General’s Office. The Attorney General also investigates alleged fraud and takes legal action to protect charitable funds.
To determine whether an organization has registered with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office or to report suspicious charitable activity, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.