How to avoid fraudulent charity scams - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

How to avoid fraudulent charity scams

BLACK HAWK CO. (KWWL) -- Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is hoping to put a stop to what he says are unfair and deceptive practices by charity fundraising groups.  So Miller has entered into an agreement with two Minnesota-based firms that have serve as telephone solicitors for three police agencies in Iowa.  The AG says that the majority of money donated pays for their services, while only a small potion goes to the actual charity. 

Among the stipulations of the new agreement:

-Telephone solicitors must identify themselves as such

-Provide accurate info on what percentage goes to the organization

-Cannot provide performance bonuses for donations a telemarketer gets

-Solicitors must record & store a certain number of calls and provide them to the AG upon request

For charities, the holiday season is an important time to bring in donations to support ongoing projects.  There are a lot of great organizations to assist, but unfortunately, there are some fraudulent ones, too.  Read on to learn what you can do to avoid being scammed.

At just about any store these days, you'll find a Salvation Army bell ringer.  The Red Kettle Campaign is an important fundraiser and helps the organization maintain its presence in the community.

"It's not just one time of the year.  You see us most at Christmas time, but we try to maintain that presence all year round," said Captain Rob Whitney with the Salvation Army in Waterloo.

But unlike the Salvation Army, not all charities are reputable.

"It's extremely frustrating.  People tend, in any charity, when there's somebody out there that's misrepresenting themselves, they become cautious about who they should and shouldn't donate to," said Captain Whitney.

Dozens of scam reports come into the Cedar Falls Police Department every day.  So authorities encourage you to ask some key questions when donating to a charity.

"You may want to ask them where the funds go, what percentage of the funds go to the charity as opposed to administrative fees.  You can get some information that way.  And then maybe you can ask for some literature to be mailed to you and then you can find out if it's a legitimate organization or not," Chief Jeff Olson said.

The Better Business Bureau runs a website called that can help you answer those questions. gives ratings to charities based on the quality of their programs and how they spend money you donate.  Both are resources that just might help you from getting scammed this holiday season.

If you feel you've been cheated by a fraudulent charity or fundraising scheme, contact the Iowa Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at (888) 777-4590.  The Better Business Bureau also has a place to submit a charity complaint online at

Online Reporter:  Kera Mashek

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