Beware of possible holiday scam in East Texas - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Beware of possible holiday scam in East Texas

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(KYTX) - From coat drives to canned food donations, East Texans are always generous during the holidays.

But sometimes, people up to no good, can abuse that generosity.

"He would say we're trying to raise money for the food drive, you know, and for the needy families, you know, and it was really odd the way he was speaking," said Tricia Thomason.

A red flag went off for Tricia Thomason when she received a phone call at her Jacksonville business about two weeks ago.

"I recognized his voice from a previous time he had called our shop, with kind of the same spill, that he was calling from a charity," explained Thomason.

Tricia didn't recognize the charity the man mentioned.

She asked for a Tax ID number, so she could make sure he was representing a legitimate organization.

"He didn't know that, and all kinds of flags went off for me," said Thomason. 

Mechele Mills with the Better Business Bureau of Central East Texas says the organization and the man making the calls has been under investigation by the BBB since 2006.

"And in this case, we believe they're asking for money," added Mills. 

When the Better Business Bureau tried to contact the man recently, he answered the phone the first time.

"And after we contacted him, his phones were disconnected the next day," said Mills. 

A similar story for Tricia. She asked the man for the organization's address.

"And when I googled it, it was just a little neighborhood that didn't look very nice, so it obviously wasn't the headquarters of anything," said Thomason.

If you think you've been contacted by this man or organization, those with the Better Business Bureau of Central East Texas want you to give them a call.

 

CLICK HERE FOR 2013 HOLIDAY SEASON GIVING GUIDE

 

Tips on making donations:

• Don't judge a charity based solely on an impressive sounding name. Know who is really asking for your money.

• Don't give cash. Make a check out to the organization, never an individual.

• Be wary of emotional appeals and be suspicious of organizations with only vague plans for dispersing funds.

• If donating to disaster relief, find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the affected areas.

• Some solicitors are overly persistent and may even offer to send a "runner" to pick up your money. Never feel pressured to give on the spot.

• Not all solicitors are charities. Ask about the organization's tax exempt status. If the group doesn't have a federal tax exempt number, you will not be able to legitimately claim your contribution as a tax deduction.

• Ask for written materials describing the group's programs and finances.

• Remember that every organization will have administrative and fundraising costs. Examine the percent of total revenue that goes for the organization's programs. Does the amount going toward programs and services seem appropriate? Be extremely wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will go to programs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee.

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