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Important Tips for Charitable Giving

The holiday season is the time when many New Jersey residents make a charitable donation to aid the needy and less fortunate among us. But even during the holidays, when good will and compassion abound, there unfortunately are scam artists at work.

Posing as charities, these scam artists lie and deceive to obtain donations for their own use and benefit. They do not seek to help their fellow man but only work to enrich themselves. The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs offers resources to help residents make sure their contributions go to legitimate charities that provide valuable services and programs to their clientele. There also are warning signs that can tip you off to a potential scam being passed off as a charity.

Know your charity

There are over 1 million charities operating throughout the United States. Some of these charities may be familiar names to you, others may not. The Division of Consumer Affairs maintains a Charitable Registration Directory of more than 10,000 charitable organizations and 250 professional fund-raising firms that are active in New Jersey. You can research a charity through this directory and learn about its location, annual income by various sources and annual expenses. The database can be found on our website

Know the warnings signs of a scam If you receive a telephone call from a charity asking for a donation:

  • Avoid being pressured into making an immediate donation

  • Beware of promises of a gift or prize in return for your donation

  • Do not listen to a "sob story" about why your donation is needed

  • Do not give credit card information to an unknown person over the telephone

  • Never agree to have a messenger or delivery service come to your home to pick up your donation

If you are interested in making a donation

  • Ask for written information about the charity to be mailed to you

  • Ask if the organization is using a professional fund-raising firm, and if so, how much of your donation actually goes to the charity

  • Consult the Division of Consumer Affairs' Charitable Registration Directory

Solicitations by mail

  • Trinkets and other items accompanying donation requests are gifts to you. You are NOT required to send a donation because you received a gift

  • Be dubious if the charity claims you have made a donation pledge previously but you have no record or recollection

  • Ignore harassing letters that demand payment of a donation pledge you do not recall making

When Making a Donation

  • Never send cash. Write a check, made out in the charity's name

  • Keep a record of your donation, noting the date and amount of the donation

Americans are a generous and caring people. In 2001, we donated over $200 billion to charities for a variety of causes. The Division of Consumer Affairs stands ready to help New Jersey residents make informed choices about charitable contributions. You can call the Division's Charities Hotline at 973-504-6215 for information and assistance.


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