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Do you know how to spot a fundraising scam? Here are some tips for giving at holidays

Ohio attorney general is suing Ohio Cops for Kids
Posted at 8:49 PM, Nov 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-30 20:49:38-05

CINCINNATI  - What do the Ohio attorney general, a young mom working at a Mount Adams café and the 9 On Your Side I-Team have in common?

They want you to be careful when you donate your money this holiday season so scammers don’t take advantage of your good intentions.

Ohio AG Mike DeWine is suing Cops for Kids, an Ohio-based non-profit, calling it a scam.

Cops For Kids has raised more than $4 million during the last decade, but has given less than 2 percent of it to police and children, according to DeWine. Nearly 80 percent of donations went to a telemarketing company, and Cops for Kids paid its two employees most of the rest – more than $600,000.

“That leaves only about $74,000  or less than 2 percent of the money going to actual charitable programming,“ DeWine said at a news conference.

At the Bow Tie Cafe in Mount Adams, Lena Mamalis told the I-Team her rules for giving money to charity.

Before giving, Mamalis looks at a non-profit's website. We showed her the one for Cops For Kids.

She clicked on a link and it said page can’t be found. That’s definitely a red flag, she said.

Mamalis explained why she’s careful before she donates a penny. It’s because she puts her money where her heart is.

“It's very personal,” she said.

After her son Gavin was born, he spent his first eight days fighting for his life in a children's hospital, said Mamalis.

“It was critical and it was scary,” she said.

Next month, Gavin celebrates his seventh birthday. So, when Mamalis donates money, most of it goes to the hospital.

“I know exactly where it goes because I was a recipient of it, so it's very personal,” she said.

The I-Team says you can take tips for Mamalis before you give to charity.

  • First, give to groups you know. You’ve seen their work. You may even have benefited from it.
  • Stay local. The money is more likely to be spent in your community.
  • Visit the charity. See how it uses money, and even volunteer.
  • Research the charity online.
  • Ask questions. People who want your money should always welcome questions about how they spend it.