JACKSON, Miss. (WLOX) - Despite being one of the poorest states in the nation, Mississippi residents always rank among the most charitable in America. So it’s important to make sure the organizations we give to are on the up and up.
This week (October 21-25) is the second annual International Charity Fraud Awareness Week (ICFAW). It’s a coordinated international campaign to help charities and consumers avoid charity fraud and promote wise giving.
“Our citizens are the most giving in the nation and we want to ensure the money they are donating is going to those who need it the most—and not a fraudulent entity,” Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said. “Check the charity on our website or call us before making a donation if you have a question about charity registration and regulation in Mississippi.”
General tips for consumers considering donating to a charity include:
- Ask for the charity’s name, website, and physical location;
- Ask how much of any donation will go to the charitable program you want to support;
- Check the Secretary of State’s website to see whether the charity is registered in Mississippi;
- Search the charity’s name online with the word “scam” or “complaint.” See what other people say about it;
- Check out the charity’s report and ratings at the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, and Guidestar;
- Use the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search to see if your donation is tax-deductible;
- Never pay with cash, a gift card, or by wiring money; and
- Consider paying by credit card, but never over the phone, and only after receipt of written information you can verify.
ICFAW is also emphasizing the importance of non-profit and charitable organizations adopting good cybersecurity practices to protect donor and client information. The Federal Trade Commission has created a guide for small businesses and non-profits about the basics of cybersecurity, and has a blog post with more information specifically for non-profits. General cybersecurity tips for non-profits include:
- Update your software – set it to update automatically. Breaches often happen when vulnerabilities exist because companies did not install the latest update or patch;
- Secure your files – make a back-up offline so if there’s a ransomware attack, your company can stay up and running;
- Require passwords for all devices;
- Use multi-factor authentication (like a PIN or key); and
- Encrypt devices for another layer of protection of sensitive information.
For more information about registered charities in Mississippi, visit www.sos.ms.gov/charities or call (601) 359-1599.