As Kentuckians generously open their wallets for those in need of a helping hand this holiday season, Attorney General Conway wants to make sure your charitable donations do not end up in the hands of scam artists.
"Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous or even fraudulent charities that will take advantage of the kindness of hard-working Kentuckians," General Conway said. "If you plan to give to a charitable organization over the holidays, gather as much information as possible to make sure the charity is not a scam and that your donation reaches someone in need."
Attorney General Conway and his Office of Consumer Protection ask that you keep the following tips in mind if you choose to make a charitable donation this holiday season:
- Donate to charities you know and trust.
- Be cautious of sound-alike charities and solicitors unable to answer questions.
- Where possible, make donations by check or credit card rather than cash.
- Don’t be pressured into making a donation.
- Ask for identification and written information when you’re approached in person.
- Always ask what percentage of your dollar goes to the cause.
General Conway also encourages Kentuckians to utilize his office’s charitable giving database to research a charity before making a donation. The database at ag.ky.gov/civil/consumerprotection/charity lists which charities have registered with the Office of the Attorney General and their status.
Beware of Seasonal Phishing Scams and Identity Theft
As many Kentuckians turn to smart phones, tablets and computers for holiday shopping needs, General Conway’s Office of Consumer Protection is encouraging consumers to be alert when making purchases over the Internet.
Many scammers use a technique called phishing to gain access to someone’s secure information, and seasonal phishing scams often come disguised as requests for charitable contributions, electronic greeting cards, online shopping advertisements or credit card applications. This is often done through emails that may contain links to websites infected with malware, enabling a scammer to locate user names, passwords, Social Security numbers and other personal data.
Taking a few proactive steps can help keep you safe when shopping online:
- Only do business with companies you know and trust and that offer secure payment processing. Look for websites that start with https (the "s" stands for secure).
- To protect yourself against seasonal phishing scams, verify the communication by calling the company or by logging into your account directly from the business' website.
- Never do business with someone who insists that you wire money.
- Using credit cards while shopping online can offer extra protection. Consider designating one credit card with a lower credit limit for online purchases.
- Keep personal information private. Don't disclose your address, phone number, Social Security number or bank account information to a stranger.
- Never respond to pop-up ads that ask for your personal or financial information.
- Avoid storing credit card information online.
Additionally, when buying a gift card, only buy from reputable sources that you know and trust. It is also wise to give the recipient the terms and conditions point of sale material, as well as the receipt confirming the amount purchased on the card. Consumers should avoid buying gift cards from online auction or "for sale" listing sites, as they can be counterfeit.
If you are the victim of a consumer scam, help is available by contacting the Office of the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-888-432-9257 or by visiting ag.ky.gov/civil/consumerprotection.
The Office of the Attorney General has also designed a step-by-step toolkit that can help identity theft victims. The toolkit is available at ag.ky.gov/idtheft.