Beware of those who take advantage

Jillian Kramer

Giving isn’t often ill-received.

But in times of great need, there can be those who take advantage of generous gifts. The nation saw a surge of fraudulent fund-raisers shortly after 9/11; in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some fear encountering the same problem.

“After Sept. 11, so many people claimed they had a relative die or whatever, and collected people’s money,” said Alice Ickes, Kent State police department crime prevention officer. “It was so hurtful to the people who had simply wanted to help others.”

In order to avoid fraudulent fund-raisers, Ickes said there are several things people can do.

“It’s best to donate through established charities,” Ickes said. “Be careful of an organization’s overhead — how much of the funds raised will really pay people’s salaries — and trust well-established organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army. If you’re donating to an individual, make your check payable to the group or organization you want the money to go to.”

In addition, Ickes warns people to beware of Internet charities.

“Charities online tend to be pretty shaky and hard to track down,” Ickes said.

Della Marie Marshall, coordinator of the Center for Student Involvement, has helped establish a fund at Kent State for hurricane victims. She, too, warns people to be careful when donating.

“Fraudulent fund-raisers are a tragedy,” Marshall said. “They take supplies from the people who really need them. Be careful and don’t take everything at face value; if you are approached by someone collecting money, get their contact information and follow up on their legitimacy. If it’s an agency, look it up with the Better Business Bureau.”

Credit card scandals can also occur, Marshall said.

“If you use a credit card to donate and find out later that something seems suspicious, contact the agency directly and ask them to uncharge your card or file a complaint,” Marshall said.

If a fraudulent fund-raiser is discovered, Ickes encourages people to report it to their law enforcement agency.

“If you find a fund-raiser that looks suspicious, you can report it to the law enforcement agency in your jurisdiction,” Ickes said. “For example, if you send a check through the mail and live on campus, you can report it to us. If the check is cashed in your hometown, you may choose to report it to your hometown law enforcement agency.”

The moral, Ickes said, is to just be careful.

“Generosity can always be targeted to unscrupulous people,” Ickes said. “Just watch out for them.”

Contact correspondent Jillian Kramer at [email protected].