Following Monday's attacks in Boston, Attorney General Kathleen Kane urged midstaters to be cautious with their charitable giving. Reports have already surfaced about possible scams, particularly on the internet.
"Pennsylvanians are very generous, and they will surely want to help the victims of this terrible crime," said Kane. "As with all charitable giving, it should be done carefully and wisely. You want to be certain your charitable donation gets to the people who need it most."
Kane provided midstaters with some tips for those who want to donate to the victims of the Boston Marathon explosions.
First, do research. Look into charities that have caught your eye, and make sure they are legitimate organizations. Find out how the donations will be used, and avoid vague appeals that don't identify intentions for funds.
Second, check with the state government registration. Many states, including Pennsylvania, require charities to register with a state government agency before they solicit for charitable gifts. You can check registration at http://www.charities.pa.gov/ or call 1-800-732-0999 for Pennsylvania charities. If you are looking for Boston-area charities, check the Massachusetts registration at http://www.charities.ago.state.ma.us/ or call 617-727-2200 ext. 2101.
Third, respect the victims and their families. Organizations raising funds should get permission from the families to use either the names of the victims and/or any photographs of them. Already photographs of children wearing racer numbers are being posted in solicitations for false charities in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings. The Boston Marathon does not allow children to compete.
Fourth, be wary of advocacy organizations. Tragedies that involve violent acts can also generate requests from some political advocacy organizations. Donors may support these efforts as well, but watch out for newly created advocacy groups that will be difficult to check out.
Fifth, proceed with caution online. Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a look-alike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information, or to click on something that downloads harmful malware into your computer. Don't assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other social media have already been vetted.
The Attorney General also recommended following up with the charity after you donate, and consider using an established organization in your efforts to support victims. And remember that some organizations are tax exempt as charities.