Southern Arizona | Investigating 4 You

N4T Investigators: Beware of charity scammers

TUCSON – The Salvation Army’s bell-ringer is another reminder that it’s the holiday season.

The agency says it helps more than 23 million Americans each year, and that 82 cents of every dollar donated go directly to funding its many programs.

They include those for disaster survivors, homeless shelters and victims of domestic abuse. But unfortunately, at this time of year, other people, usually on the phone or online, are also seeking your donations. They don’t volunteer for the Salvation Army or any other legitimate charity or non-profit; we’re talking about scammers.

“It’s a very big problem because you want to make sure that your money is going to a cause that you really care about,” said Susann Miller of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona. Before donating, Miller said, “Always do your research first, and of course I always recommend because you can always go on there and see you know if they pass the 20 standards of trust in there or just whatever their information is.”

Miller says if you receive a phone call from someone claiming to represent a charity, “Never give to an unsolicited call, but also don’t respond to the emotional draw that they have. Just simply say, ‘What is your website address? And what does your charity do? How are the funds used?’ And then, ‘Thank you for the information’, and then, hang up.”

What can happen is that people become a bit more cynical or nervous about who they’re giving their money to.

Wendell Hicks is the Executive Director of the Southern Arizona Aids Foundation. SAAF, as it’s also called, is an accredited charity with the Better Business Bureau.

Hicks says BBB accreditation should be a key factor when you are deciding which organization you want to donate to. “I think it’s incredibly important for them to be able to go somewhere besides our own site to see that; ‘Yes, we are transparent. Everything you would want to see is available.'”

The watchdog group, Charity Navigator, recommends that a charity put 70% to 75% of all donations into their programs. Remember, before giving to a specific charity, ask them a lot of questions and research them. You can do research on several websites, including,,, and

If you have a story you’d like us to investigate, email us at or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.

Matthew Schwartz

Matthew Schwartz

Matthew Schwartz has been an investigative reporter since 1993. He specializes in reporting on corruption, fraud and scams.
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