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RIGBY — Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden wants people to be cautious of possible scams related to this month’s shooting at Rigby Middle School.
Victims and their families also need to be cautious if they receive legal representation solicitations about filing lawsuits or joining potential class actions, Wasden said in a news release Thursday. So far, several fundraisers throughout eastern Idaho have been held to help those impacted and while many people have good intentions, some are looking to capitalize on tragedy.
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Idaho’s charity laws make misleading charitable solicitations illegal. The law allows the AG’s office to investigate and take legal action against those who misrepresent the purpose of charitable donations or who misuse charitable assets. Consumer protection law is also intended to protect people from deceptive advertising of goods and services, like legal assistance, according to the news release.
As GoFundMe pages for the victims of the shooting have popped up since the tragedy, the crowdfunding website confirmed to EastIdahoNews.com that multiple pages will go directly to the victims. You can find out which pages are verified by visiting the story here.
Anyone who lost money or wants to report a scam charity, solicitation, or legal representation advertisement may file a complaint through the Attorney General’s website or by calling the office’s Consumer Protection Division at (208) 334-2424 or 1-(800) 432-3545.
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When looking to donate to a charity or towards a fundraising campaign, Wasden said donors should consider the following:
Research before giving. Important background information about charities is available online. Donors can review the charity’s tax-exempt status and IRS financial filings at www.irs.gov. Financial records inform the public about a charity’s mission and show how a charity spends its money. Giving to an organization that spends most of its money on furthering its charitable purpose is better than donating to one that spends the bulk of its funds on administrative costs and employee compensation. Other websites that rate charities include the BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance and Guidestar.
Question telemarketers and don’t give money over the phone. Charities sometimes use paid “telefunders” to help them raise money. Donors should ask questions and request written information from such callers before deciding whether to donate. Never agree to donate over the phone and hang up on callers who use pressure tactics to get immediate contributions. It is often best to ignore calls from unknown numbers.
Don’t click links in email solicitations and watch out for “look-alike” websites. Links in unsolicited emails, or spam, can be very dangerous. They may contain malware that harms digital devices or takes the recipient to unsecure or fraudulent websites. Always visit a charity’s website directly to donate money. Fraudulent websites with slightly different web addresses than the legitimate charity’s website can scam donors out of their personal information or install malware or spyware on devices.
Be wary of crowdfunding campaigns and social network fundraising. Crowdfunding can be a great way to fundraise, but it also is an attractive tool for scammers. Before donating to a crowdfunding campaign or through a social network solicitation, donors should question the person collecting the funds and find out (a) what percentage of donations will be used for the charitable purpose, (b) the amount of any added fees, and (c) what percentage of a donation goes to the platform website. Remember, donations to individuals are not tax-deductible.
Don’t send money orders or buy gift cards. Never donate to a person or organization that asks for money orders or gift cards. Reputable charities accept checks or credit cards. They do not instruct donors to buy gift cards.
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