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Police charity caution: How to know if it's a scam

Woman suspicious after calls to help police
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Posted at 11:37 AM, Sep 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-18 12:09:04-04

With everything that's happening this pandemic year, people are getting more and more calls to support their local police.

Leaving politics aside for a minute, how do you know if those calls are legitimate?

Wendy Beckman got a call the other day from a man asking her to help retired police and firefighters.

Being a generous person, she agreed to mail them $50.

"My brother was a police officer, my cousin was a cop and one of my sons is a cop," she said. "So I really want to support the police for what they do."

But then she started to worry, especially when she couldn't find the group listed as a charity anywhere online.

She remembers news stories two years ago, about 67-year-old Jerry Hinkle, a Cincinnati man who raised thousands of dollars for the Shop with a Cop program, then admitted in court that he spent it on personal expenses (the case ended with a plea agreement).

"I got burned a couple of years ago when I found out another charity I was contributing to was not a real charity, so I thought I should probably check this one out," Beckman said.

How to protect yourself

So what should she have done?

The Better Business Bureau says if anyone calls or knocks asking you to help the police, the best thing you can do is ask them for information before you agree to donate.

Sara Kemerer of the Cincinnati BBB says you should look them up at the bureau's website, www.bbb.org, or at Charity Navigator.org, or Guidestar.org.

"The words police and words firefighter are not trademarked," Kemerer explained, "so it is very easy for scammers to use those names and create fake organizations. And it's very easy to catch the eye of someone."

It turns out Police and Fire Retirees of Ohio is a legitimate non profit lobbying group, though it is not a charity under IRS rules.

Wendy is fine with that and will sleep better now.

"But I'm sure there are a lot that are not on the level, so you kind of have to be cautious," she said.

If you are still not sure if your money is really going to the cause, call your local police or fire department and ask how you can donate to them.

That way, you don't waste your money.

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8:47 PM, Oct 17, 2018

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