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Governor and Department of Professional and Financial Regulation Offer Guidance for Holiday Season Charitable Contributions--Charitable Scams Often Increase This Time of Year


December 8, 2015



As many families consider holiday season and end of year charitable contributions, Governor Paul R. LePage and Commissioner Anne Head from the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation are encouraging Maine residents to check the legitimacy of unknown charities. Potential donors are urged to research charitable organizations before making a contribution.

“Mainers are very generous and known for lending a hand to those in need,” Governor LePage said. “Because many people choose to support charities this time of year, criminals are especially active during the holidays in trying to take advantage of the generosity of others.”

Many charitable organizations are required to be licensed with the Department’s Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation, which collects information about charitable activity in Maine and makes it available to the public. A quick check with the Department can provide information to help in determining whether a charity is legitimate or a scam.

“Charitable solicitation scams aren’t new, but they sometimes increase during the holiday season and in the aftermath of tragedies,” Commissioner Head said. “It’s important for the public to know that guidance and resources are available to assist in making sure contributions are going to real charities.”

Commissioner Head advises individuals to ask questions and seek printed information about unknown charities; to confirm their legitimacy with licensing officials; to never send cash or wire money when requested to do so; to always keep receipts of donations; and to report concerns or complaints about questionable solicitations with the Department and law enforcement.

Information about charities can be obtained through the Department’s website (www.maine.gov/pfr), specifically at www.maine.gov/pfr/professionallicensing/professions/charitable. Links allow for the search of licensed charitable organizations, as well as disciplinary actions. Questions and complaints can also be made by calling the Charitable Solicitations Program at 207-624-8525.

Additional tips and advice accompany this news release and can also be obtained from the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov/charityfraud/).

The Department of Professional and Financial Regulation protects the citizens of Maine and supports the economy through the oversight of State-chartered financial institutions, the insurance industry, grantors of consumer credit, the securities industry, and numerous professions providing services to the public. More information is available at www.maine.gov/pfr.

Additional Tips and Advice When Considering Charitable Giving: December, 2015

-- Always research unknown charities before contributing.

-- Not all organizations with names that sound like charities are actually charities. Some organizations select names that are similar to those of well-known charities.

-- Whether a charity is new or well established, you may wish to know what percentage of your contribution is spent on fundraising and other expenses---not directly support the charity’s stated purpose.

-- Be cautious when contacted by telephone for a contribution. Ask that the request be put in writing. You may also want to ask if the caller is a paid solicitor or a volunteer.

-- Never give your bank account information or credit/debit card numbers to a caller. And be wary if the person soliciting the contribution is willing to have someone rush to your home or business to meet with you and pick up a contribution.

-- If you wish to receive a tax deduction, make sure the organization has a tax deductible status with the Internal Revenue Service. “Tax exempt,” “non-profit,” and “tax deductible” mean different things. Only “tax deductible” means contributions are deductible on your income tax return. Visit the IRS website (www.irs.gov/charities) for more information.

-- Be wary of organizations which list only post office boxes or mail drop suite numbers as their address. You may wish to inquire about the charity’s location.