What agencies regulate charitable solicitation?
In Ohio, the attorney general regulates charitable solicitation to ensure that citizens are protected from fraudulent scams. The Federal Trade Commission also has jurisdiction in this area. Depending on your location, an organization may need to obtain a permit from a local government agency before soliciting charitable donations in your area.
Are fraudulent charitable solicitations common?
Unfortunately, bad actors often enact scams to take advantage of the generosity of Ohioans who think they are contributing to worthwhile causes. Donors need to ask plenty of questions and review information about charities before making a gift. Additional guidance for wise giving can be found on the Ohio Attorney General's website.
How do I know if a charitable solicitation is legitimate?
It can often be difficult to tell whether a request for a charitable gift is legitimate. Donors should ask a lot of questions, examine written information about the organization, and determine whether the cause is worth supporting. Check with friends and family to learn what others might know about a group’s activities. Use the resources offered by the Ohio Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission, and other agencies to independently research the charity.
Often the best way to approach charitable giving is to develop a charitable giving plan that allows you to identify your giving priorities in advance. Then you will have determined what types of causes and what specific organizations you want to support, and your budget for donations, in advance of any solicitation. This allows you to respond to an unfamiliar solicitation by stating that you have a giving plan but will be happy to review information to consider donating to new organizations in the future.
What are some of the warning signs that a solicitation may not be legitimate?
Donors should always refuse to give whenever they personally feel uncomfortable about a request. Sometimes it may even be appropriate to file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission. While the decision to donate is ultimately up to you, some specific tips include:
- Don’t provide bank or credit card information over the phone on calls that you didn’t expect.
- Don’t be enticed to make donations because of promises of prizes, cash awards or sweepstakes.
- Don’t give when someone offers to come to your house to personally pick up your gift.
- Don’t give when the caller can’t answer questions about the charity.
- Don’t give when high-pressure tactics are used.
- Don’t make out a check to an individual or to cash. Always make the check out to the name of the charity.
Can I prevent getting telephone calls for charitable solicitations?
Unfortunately, the federal do-not-call registry does not apply to charities. Citizens have to make the request to each charity. However, charities are required to keep a list of citizens who have asked to have their names and numbers removed from their solicitation lists. That information must be passed along from the charity to any professional solicitors working on behalf of the organization. Citizens should file a complaint with the Charitable Law Section if they continue to receive solicitations on behalf of a particular charity after asking to be removed from that charity's call list. You can also find out more about the do-not-call registry by visiting donotcall.gov.
I received an invoice for a pledge to a nonprofit that I don’t recall making. Do I have to pay it?
Please be advised that the attorney general’s office cannot give you legal advice. You may need to consult with private legal counsel if you think the document you received might be some other type of document besides a pledge, such as a bill for goods or services. However, if you have determined that the document might be an invoice for a charitable donation pledge, you can report the invoice to the Ohio Attorney General's Charitable Law Section at 614-466-3181. Charitable Law Section staff may want to ask you additional questions to ensure that the invoice is not a fraudulent attempt to exploit Ohioans.
How can I find out if a professional solicitor is registered in Ohio?
We maintain an updated list of registered professional solicitors. Visit our professional solicitation page to download the list or to find more information.
What if I can’t find the name of the solicitor I’m looking for?
Anyone contacting you as a professional solicitor must tell you the name of the professional solicitor. If you are not sure which professional solicitor contacted you or you just need to determine if a particular professional solicitor is registered, call 614-466-3181. In some situations, it may be appropriate for you to file a complaint.
When should I contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office about charitable solicitations?
The Ohio Attorney General's Charitable Law Section routinely investigates issues regarding charitable solicitations. If you are asked to make a charitable gift — in person, by mail, online, or by telephone — and you are suspicious that it is not legitimate, please contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to file a complaint.
You can file a complaint on our website; send a letter to the Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section at 150 E. Gay St., 23rd Floor, Columbus, OH 43215; or contact the attorney general’s help center at 800-282-0515.
Some of the most common complaints the Office receives involve reports of misleading or deceptive practices such as using a sound-alike charity name to make donors believe the individual or entity is supporting a popular cause; providing false information to get a donation, such as sending an invoice for a pledge that the donor never made or a reminder to continue donating to a charity that the donor has not donated money to in the past; failing to disclose that the call is being made by a professional solicitor; and making harassing phone calls.
What if I have more specific questions regarding professional solicitation in Ohio?
You can contact the professional solicitation registrar in the Ohio Attorney General's Charitable Law Section at 614-466-3181.