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Guest editorial: Being sure your help really helps

September 23, 2018

People in The T&D Region and much of South Carolina have a lot to the thankful for after Hurricane Florence spared so many. But things are bad in parts of the state and terrible in neighboring North Carolina, which took the brunt of the storm.

As is customary in our community, state and nation, people are anxious to help others. But there is need for caution. Scammers will be out in force as they see an opportunity to capitalize on people’s generosity.

Looking to get ahead of the scams, Secretary of State Mark Hammond is encouraging South Carolinians to stay vigilant when giving to those in need.

“Our hearts go out to all those who have been impacted by Hurricane Florence,” Hammond said. “However, I urge everyone to do their research before making a donation. While most people see this as an opportunity to help their communities, some see it as a chance to take advantage of others’ generosity.”

Hammond encourages anyone considering making a charitable contribution to help victims of Hurricane Florence to do the following:

• Research the charity before making a donation. Donors may inquire about the status of a charitable organization by using the Charity Search feature on the Secretary of State’s website at sos.sc.gov, and review registered charities’ financial information including total revenue, total expenses, fundraising costs, and the percentage spent on charitable programs.

• Make sure the charity you are donating to has a long track record of helping those in need. Beware of fly-by-night organizations that appear right after a disaster and that can disappear just as quickly.

“With crowdfunding sites and social media, it has become far too easy for scammers to deceive the generous and well-intentioned,” Hammond said. “Consider limiting your donations to organizations with a long track record of transparency and accountability, and that have the infrastructure to make sure your donations get to those who need it most.”

• Don’t be pressured to make a donation right away. If a person or charitable organization asking for a donation is legitimate, they will welcome the opportunity for you to independently review their mission and their record of charitable activity before making a donation.

• Know who’s calling before pledging a contribution over the phone. If you receive a call from a professional solicitor, they must disclose the following at the time of the call: that he/she is a paid solicitor; the name, location and purpose of the charity; and the registered, true name of the professional fundraising organization for which he/she works.

• Don’t give out your personal or financial information over the phone. This includes your birth date, Social Security number, credit card number and bank account information. When in doubt, hang up.

• Notify the Secretary of State of any concerns you have about a charitable solicitation. In 2017, the Secretary of State’s Office launched its Online Charitable Solicitation Complaint Form. This online application allows donors to confidentially file a complaint with the Division of Public Charities, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also call the Division of Public Charities at 1-888-CHARITI (242-7484).

In short, help will be appreciated. But it has to get to the people doing the helping – not those out to make quick bucks by victimizing those trying to help the victims.

— The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg

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