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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
October 25, 2005

Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General
Division of Consumer Affairs
- Kimberly Ricketts, Director

 

Jeff Lamm, Kara Wood
973-504-6327

 

Attorney General Peter C. Harvey Reminds Residents Of Charities Fraud In The Wake Of Recent Natural Disasters And In Preparation For The Upcoming Holiday Season


NEWARK - In the past several months, charitable donations and fund raising events have increased significantly following the earthquake in Pakistan, the tsunami and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, according to Attorney General Peter C. Harvey and Consumer Affairs Director Kimberly S. Ricketts.

"New Jerseyans have responded with their usual compassion to recent devastating events with many giving generously to relief efforts or organizing fund raising events," Acting Governor Richard Codey said. "We certainly don’t want to discourage people from these activities, but there are rules that govern how charitable events must be organized.”

“We want to encourage consumers to check it out with Consumer Affairs first before making any decisions on charitable donations or events,” said Attorney General Harvey. “Most people act with the best of intentions but there are rules that need to be followed and we should all exercise caution as con artists often see such disasters as an opportunity to defraud others.”

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs’ Charities Registration Section enforces New Jersey’s Charitable Registration and Investigation Act and works to ensure that organizations are operating lawfully. Any organization that is accepting donations, soliciting contributions, or conducting any fund raising events in the State of New Jersey must register with the Division of Consumer Affairs, unless they are exempt from the registration requirements. The types of organizations and activities covered by this law are broad and include 501c3s, groups conducting charitable appeals and businesses donating partial sales proceeds to a charity.

Additionally, any individuals or groups planning to host any games of chance, including raffles such as a 50/50 or gift basket raffle or a casino night are required to register in advance with the Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission. There are limitations on the types of organizations that can legally conduct games of chance. Organizers are also required to obtain a license from the municipality in which the raffle will take place. To ensure compliance with these laws, please contact the Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission at 973-273-8000 and ask about registration.

“Charitable assistance is an important part of our national identity and we encourage any activities that enable New Jerseyans to express their generosity and support for those in need,” Director Ricketts said. “But in order to protect individuals who are making solicitations, as well as those who are making donations, we want all New Jerseyans to know that there are certain rules about how these activities must be conducted.”

All charities that are registered with the State, and are in compliance, are listed at www.NJConsumerAffairs.com/charfrm.htm. Consumers should check with Consumer Affairs first before donating to or soliciting on behalf of a charity. If you are thinking about organizing an event, contact the Charities unit directly at 973-504-6215.

“To protect the charity and generosity of citizens in every municipality and county across the State who respond to those in need, we ask for your assistance in contacting us first to ensure that all charitable efforts are conducted appropriately and legally,” continued Director Ricketts.

To avoid becoming the victim of charities fraud, Director Ricketts asks residents to consider the following advice:

  • Give to charities you know and trust - never give to a charity you know nothing about. Ask for literature and read it. Ask questions. Honest charities encourage you to do so.
  • Check whether the organization is registered with Consumer Affairs’ Charities Registration Section or exempt from the registration requirements. You may confirm whether an organization is registered or exempt by calling the unit at 973-504-6215. You may also confirm registration online at www.NJConsumerAffairs.com/charfrm.htm
  • Find out how long the organization has been in operation and ask to see its financial reports. These reports, called 990s, are available by calling Consumer Affairs’ Charities Section. They reveal how much money the organization takes in each year, how much it spends on the causes it claims to represent and how much it pays toward administrative, management and professional fund-raising fees. General financial information about a registered charity is also available at www.njconsumeraffairs.com/charfrm.htm
  • Don’t be fooled by a convincing name. A dishonest charity will often have an impressive name or one that closely resembles the name of a respected, legitimate concern.
  • Don’t succumb to pressure. Don’t let yourself be pressured into giving, and don’t feel you have to contribute on the spot. No legitimate organization will expect you to contribute immediately, even if you have given in the past.
  • Ask if the charity uses a professional fund raiser and, if so, what percentage of your contribution will actually go toward the charitable purpose, such as a relief effort, and how much will be used to pay the fund raiser.
  • Beware of unsolicited and phony e-mail notices that claim to be from a charity that you are familiar with asking for your credit card information. This scam is called "phishing" and could be used by thieves to commit identity theft.

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