With everything that’s happening this pandemic year, people are getting more and more calls to support their local police.
Leaving politics aside for a minute — how do you know if those calls are legitimate?
Wendy Beckman got a call the other day from a man asking her to help retired police and firefighters. Being a generous person, she agreed to mail them $50.
“My brother was a cop, my cousin was a cop, one of my sons is a cop, so I really want to support the police for what they do,” she said.
But then she started to worry, especially when she couldn’t find the group listed as a charity anywhere online. She remembers news stories two years ago about a man who raised thousands of dollars for the “Shop With a Cop” program — then allegedly spent it on personal expenses.
“I got burned a couple of years ago when I found out another charity I was contributing to was not a real charity, so I thought I should probably check this one out,” Beckman said.
So what should she have done? The Better Business Bureau says if anyone calls or knocks asking you to help the police, the best thing you can do is ask them for information before you agree to donate.
“The words police and words firefighter are not trademarked, so it is very easy for scammers to sue those names and create fake organizations. And it’s very easy to catch the eye of someone,” says Sara Kemerer of the bureau.
She recommends people look them up at their website, or charity navigator, or guidestar.org.
Turns out “police and fire retirees” is a legitimate non-profit lobbying group although not a charity under IRS rules. Wendy is fine with that and will sleep better now. “I’m sure there are a lot that are not on the level, so you kind of have to be cautious.”
If you are still not sure if your money is really going to the cause, call your local police or fire department and ask how you can donate there so you don’t waste your money.