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Scams have been increasing during the pandemic and wildfire season, so beware

Oregon's top law enforcement official is advising residents to make careful and informed decisions when donating to charities this holiday season.

"As the COVID-19 pandemic and wildfire recovery continue to impact people throughout our state, we are thankful to be able to turn to charities to provide critical services and resources to individuals and communities," said Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum in a news release. "If you are in a position to donate money, be sure to do your research and make informed decisions in order to maximize the impact of your giving."

She suggested that those folks wanting to support the state's wildfire recovery give to the 2020 Community Rebuilding Fund, which is a joint effort of the Oregon Community and Ford Family foundations and the Meyer Memorial Trust.

The fund, which has tallied $5.5 million in pledges and donations to date, will invest in recovery and rebuilding efforts in those parts of the state decimated by the wildfires in the fall. For more information, visit https://oregoncf.org/oregon-wildfire-relief-recovery/.

In addition, Rosenblum suggested five tips for avoiding charity scams:

• Do your research: With more than 1 million charities registered with the IRS, the attorney general suggested these websites to determine whose missions and programs best match your giving — Guide Star, Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau.

• Only give to registered charities: Check the Oregon Department of Justice's charity database or call 971-673-1880 to determine if an organization is registered with that agency.

• Monetary donations preferred: Most charities seek cash as it gives them flexibility to meet the needs of the populations they serve. In addition, some groups may not have the resources to manage, store and distribute items donated, so check with the organization first to ensure they can accept your donation.

• Be wary of solicitations made by telephone, text, email or in person: "Keep in mind that scammers are always lurking and they see opportunity in a crisis," Rosenblum said. "Resist high-pressure appeals for donations and don't send cash or respond to requests to purchase and send gift cards. To maintain the most control over your giving, it's best for you to initiate the contact with a charity — not the other way around." 

• Not all gifts are tax-deductible: Only charities with 501(c)(3) status are tax-deductible, if that's a priority for someone donating. To verify a charity's status, check the Department of Justice's IRS database and make the charity provides written confirmation of the donation, then retain the record.


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