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December 10, 2008
AG McKenna, Reed warn against charity scams amid economic crisis

 Charity Event 2008
Attorney General Rob McKenna and Secretary of State Sam Reed join AARP Fraud Fighters in calling Washington residents to educate them about how to give wisely.
Needs are great as the nation faces economic woes, and Washington donors looking to help others this season should check a report released today by the Office of Secretary of State and take a good look at where their money is going before they give.

Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna met this morning at the AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center in Seattle to discuss the report, which is released annually to outline just how much money is being pocketed by third-party fundraisers registered in Washington, and how much actually goes back to their charity clients. They then joined AARP’s volunteer Fraud Fighters to kick off a statewide calling blitz to educate Washington residents about wise charitable giving. 

Commercial fundraisers, which can range from telemarketers to mail distributors, collect money on behalf of a variety of groups, like shelters and aid programs. The cut these fundraisers keep and the amount they return to charity varied wildly this year, from 100 percent to nothing at all.

“With the economy in recession, needs are immense across the board,” said Reed. “We want to make sure individuals who are able to contribute to charity are informed about where their money is going, so those dollars are having the maximum amount of impact.”

The 2008 report shows the following:

  • A total of $1,828,442,302 in contributions was raised by the 110 paid fundraisers registered in Washington, though more than $1.1 billion was raised by a single fundraiser new to the state.
  • The average percentage of contributions returned to charity clients was 80 percent overall.
  • The best: The fundraisers that returned the most contributions to charity gave back more overall this year than they did last year. On average, the fundraisers with the 10 highest percentage rates gave back 89 percent to clients, versus 78 percent in 2007.
  • The worst: There was also an improvement among fundraisers that returned the least amount to charity. This year, the fundraisers with the 10 lowest percentages gave back 10 percent on average. Last year, the average return among that bottom group was less than 1 percent.

Read the Reports

There are approximately 7,800 charities currently registered with the Secretary of State’s Charities Program – nearly 800 more than in 2007, which means there are more options than ever to give. While most charities are reputable and accountable to their donors, some charities or their paid solicitors are not and it’s up to the consumer to educate themselves to combat fraud.

“Most charities are accoun

 Sam Reed with mail
 Secretary of State Sam Reed dumps out a box containing many charity solicitations that were received by a Tri-Cities family during a three-month period.
table to their donors, but some Grinches are more interested in helping themselves to your cash than helping others,” McKenna cautioned. “Give to organizations that are upfront and responsible.”

The Attorney General’s Office announced today that it is suing a Sammamish-based nonprofit organization for making misrepresentations while soliciting donations reportedly intended to help homeless and low-income families. The office also has an investigation underway involving another charity.

Adults over 65 can be particularly vulnerable to fundraising scams, according to AARP State Director Doug Shadel, who said this age  group receives more telephone and mail solicitations for charitable donations than any other age group. 

“With today’s sluggish economy, uncertain job market and rising prices, people are in need like never before.  But before we open our hearts and our wallets, it’s important to make sure we are giving wisely,” said Shadel.

The Fraud Fighter Call Center plans on contacting more than 5,000 consumers by phone in coming weeks.

Reed stressed that informed giving is made easy by searching and clicking the “search” tab. There, people can find recent financial history of fundraisers, charities and other resources.  Consumers may also contact the Charities Program by calling toll-free 1-800-332-4483.

If you believe you are a victim of charity fraud, please contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Resource Center between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays at 1-800-551-4636 or file a complaint online at

More tips are available at and  Consumers can also order a free "Check Before You Give" toolkit from the AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center by calling toll-free 1-800-646-2283.

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Media Contacts: Christina Siderius, Secretary of State’s Office, (360) 902-4176
Kristin Alexander, Attorney General’s Office, (206) 464-6432


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