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Couple settling their own car accident case.Charitable giving is wonderful and noble. Our firm supports a number of local charities and community organizations. I know the importance of their fund raising.

However, we also know that some people try to use a fake charity to scam others out of their money. So we would like to give you some tips to make sure your generosity goes only to legitimate charities, and gets used for legitimate charitable purposes.

Do You Know Them?

It is perfectly fine to give to a charity you know well. But be sure the person collecting that money is really representing that charity. I think you are safe with Santa ringing his bell for the Salvation Army, but not the guy who comes to your door with a brochure he could have made on his computer.

Generally, don’t give money to someone in person unless you know them and know their status with the charity. You can always mail a check later, and that is far safer.

Beware Professional Fundraisers

Some charities use paid fundraisers to raise money. The fundraiser keeps part of the money for their fee. It is legal, but I would personally much rather all my money go right to the charity – not to pay fees to a professional fundraiser.

Professional fundraisers in Maryland are required to register with the Secretary of State’s office. They should be able to prove to you that they are registered, and you can look them up at the Secretary of State’s website.

Check them Out

If you are not sure about the charity, check them out. Every charity must register with the Maryland Secretary of State. They are not allowed to solicit donations unless they are registered. Go to their website here to see if they are registered. Call the Secretary of State’s Charitable Division at 410-974-5534. Be sure any charity you work with is legitimate.

Get the full name, address, and phone number of the charity. Ask for written information, and read it before you give. You can also ask for financial information. It is a very good idea to make sure you give to a charity that uses most of your money for it’s charitable purposes, instead of for administrative purposes. If they won’t give this to you, they are probably not legitimate.

Here is the link to conduct a charity search at the Maryland Secretary of State’s Office.

Here is a link to the Donor Education page of the Maryland Secretary of State’s charity website.

No Phone Donations

Do not give money over the phone. That is a primary way scam artists operate. They may ask you for a credit card, or offer to send a courier to pick up your check. Either request is a warning sign. You should refuse to deal with anyone who tries these tactics.  Ask them to send something in writing and only give after you have received it.

Ask Questions

Southern Maryland Worker's Comp LawyerYou have the right to ask as many questions as you want before giving. If someone doesn’t have answers for you, or seems annoyed that you are asking questions, that should be a major red flag that they are not legitimate.

Here are some questions to ask about written solicitations:

  • Is the charity registered with the Secretary of State?
  • What is the full name, address and phone number of the charity?
  • Do you work for the charity or are you a paid fund-raiser?
  • For what purpose will my contribution be used?
  • Is my contribution tax deductible?
  • What percentage of its total income does the charity spend on its charitable purpose?
  • Does the organization offer to send me a copy of its financial statement?
  • Is the appeal for contributions written in a way that appeals only to my emotions rather than to my intellect as well?
  • Does the appeal sound plausible?

Report Phony Charities

If you think you have come across a phone charity, you can report them to the Charity Division of the Secretary of State. We do urge you to do this to protect charitable giving from those who would ruin it by making everyone think every charity is just a scam. That would be devastating to those legitimate organizations that rely on your good will.


We hope this guide helps you make safe donations to the many fantastic charities in Maryland. And we do encourage you to donate!

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