West Virginia citizens and businesses are urged to use caution and to be on guard against imposters soliciting charitable donations to organizations soliciting financial support for Ukraine or Ukrainian refugees in the wake of the Russian invasion.
“West Virginians are known for their generosity and charity,” said Secretary of State Mac Warner. “But it is important that donors make sure their contributions are going to legitimate charities that will use the funds for the intended purposes.
“West Virginians give from the heart, but we must give smart.”
Numerous organizations are soliciting funds to assist the crisis in Ukraine.
To solicit donations in West Virginia, charities must be registered with the Secretary of State’s Office, Warner explained. People can access that information through the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office.
Money and relief items have been flowing from nations around the world to help Ukrainian refugees and those who remain in Ukraine to fight the invading forces of Russian
President Vladimir Putin, according to Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
Scammers are preying on people’s giving hearts and taking advantage of the organizations that have been set up to provide relief to Ukraine.
“The war brought on by Putin against Ukraine has created a humanitarian crisis, and people from all over the world have responded with generosity and kindness,” Morrisey said.
“Unfortunately, there are still those who would take advantage of people’s willingness to give.
“West Virginians are generous people. I encourage those who wish to give to the relief effort in Ukraine to do so, but give wisely so that your generosity helps those in need,” Morrisey said.
According to the FBI, charity fraud schemes seek donations that do little or no work; instead, the money goes to the fake charity’s creator.
While these scams can happen at any time, they are especially prevalent after high-profile disasters, Morrisey noted.
Additional tips to keep in mind before donating to disaster relief organizations include the following:
• Only give to established charities or groups whose work you know and trust.
• Make sure the charity is properly registered. All registered charities in West Virginia can be found at www.erls.wvsos.gov.
• Never feel pressured to donate immediately. Be suspicious of any solicitor that pressures you for a donation right away.
If you are suspicious, ask the solicitor to mail you educational materials rather than making a quick decision over the phone. You can simply say, “I’d like to learn more before donating. Please mail me some materials.”
• Never give your Social Security number or personal financial information to a phone solicitor.
• Be suspicious of charities that ask for donations in cash, gift cards, or via wire transfer.
• Consider paying by credit card, which is the safest option for security and tax purposes.
• Ask how much of an individual donation directly supports the relief effort.
Research the charity’s reviews and track record. Trustworthy charities put the majority of their donations toward the intended charitable purposes.
• Never rely on a group’s sympathetic sounding name or its similarity to a well-known, reputable entity.
• Be wary of unsolicited calls that thank you for donations that you do not recall making.
• Verify any local chapter is authorized to solicit funds on behalf of its parent organization.
• Go directly to a charity or organization’s website instead of clicking on a provided link.
• Any online contribution website should start with https://. The “s” verifies a secure connection, making it less likely for personal information to be stolen.
• Be wary of any charity refusing to detail its mission, use of donations, or proof of tax deductibility.
• Keep records, including a letter confirming the charitable status of the organization, for contributions in excess of $250.
• Contact the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office if you believe that the charity is not operating properly, phone toll-free at 866-767-8683 or file a complaint online by going to sos.wv.gov.
“We want citizens to support legitimate, registered charities. My office has made it easy to make sure everyone knows which charities are registered to protect donors from scams,” Warner said.
Any West Virginian solicited to donate to a charity they think may be fraudulent may also contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808 or file a complaint online at www.wvago.gov.