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State officials say donate to COVID-19 pandemic charities, but use caution to avoid scams

State officials say donate to COVID-19 pandemic charities, but use caution to avoid scams

State officials urge Wisconsin residents to use caution to avoid being scammed when donating to charities during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and to report any suspected charity scams.

Attorney General Josh Kaul and Kathy Blumenfeld, secretary of the state Department of Financial Institutions, said residents making donations to coronavirus relief efforts can take simple steps to make sure their donations are going where they are intended, to organizations genuinely serving others.

  • Donors can search DFI's online registry to see if an organization is registered in Wisconsin, and review its financial reports. The registry is at Under state law, most fundraisers and charities soliciting donations are required to register and report each year. Not all are required to do so, but the lack of a registration can be a red flag.
  • Check a charity's rating at the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch and Guidestar.
  • Search the charity's name on the internet along with words like "complaint" or "scam."

Donors should also look at the charity's website, its address and mission, and find out how much of their donation will go directly to services. Don't pay by cash or gift card, and don't wire money. Pay by credit card or check. If paying through a charity's website, make sure payment information is secure by looking for "https" in the web address.

Scammers who call can fool your caller ID to make it look like they're in your area code or elsewhere in Wisconsin, or from a familiar organization. They also might pressure donors for money before they've had a chance to do any research.

Charity complaints to DFI can be made online at DFI's charitable organizations website, referenced above. Look there for a link to the "Report of Violation" form, and for other charity-related tips.

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