The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Century Station was recently contacted by a Lynwood business owner who has been donating to what he thought was a local law enforcement organization. Over the years, he had given checks to the organization for hundreds of dollars but recently began to question if it was a legitimate organization and contacted Century Station to investigate.
Through the LASD investigation, it was found the organization was not connected to LASD or any local law enforcement agency. However, the entity was an actual national charitable 501(c)(3) organization with a tax ID number, but none of the funds were ever distributed to the LASD or Century Station.
As we approach the end of the year, many organizations (legitimate and fraudulent) tend to ramp up donation campaigns. Also, with the recent fires and other natural disasters, law enforcement is seeing an increase in “disaster charities,” whether they ask for money in person, or online (i.e. “GoFundMe” pages). Here are some tips for our residents and business owners:
Thoroughly vet the entity. Many charity names are very similar to actual organizations and it can be difficult to differentiate.
Never feel compelled or forced to donate on the spot, whether it’s at your front door, in front of a supermarket, or over the phone. Ask for a contact name and call back number. Research the contact information they provide.
A reputable organization will not ask for donations via gift card, wire transfer, or cash only.
If an organization says the donation is “tax deductible,” you can verify their claim using the IRS’ tax exempt organization search: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/tax-exempt-organization-search
By doing a little research, you can protect yourself and make sure the funds you donate go toward your intended charity.