Be on the lookout for these charity scams during the pandemic, Ohio AG warns

Updated: Aug. 21, 2020 at 3:43 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A warning from the Ohio Attorney General to protect you from thieves.

Criminals are getting creative as more people generously give to charities during the pandemic.

Tough times often bring out the best in people who want to give.

But they also bring out the worst in thieves who are out to make a buck off of your hard work.

“This is the kind of time when scammers come out of the woodwork. It’s really important to do your own homework,” Yost said.

19 Investigates spoke one-on-one with Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost over Zoom.

He wants you to know the red flags of a bad charity.

His message is more urgent than ever during the coronavirus pandemic.

‘You can tell a lot just by how the person’s conducting themselves. Scammers will sometimes feel uncertain or they’ll hesitate before they give you answers. They’ll avoid answering the questions or giving you an address where the charity’s located, and that’s required by law here in Ohio,” Yost said.

Here are some warning signs you should watch out for:

-"Sound-alikes" The charity's name is similar to a nationally recognized agency.

-Callers use high-pressure tactics, requesting donations right away.

-They want checks made out to a person instead of the charity.

-They offer prizes in return for a donation.

“For example, if you have somebody who wants to come by and pick up a check, that’s a not good sign. Somebody who seems to be overly aggressive, pushy, that’s not a good sign,” Yost said.

Before you reach for your wallet, you can check to make sure the charity is the real deal.

A quick search of the attorney general’s charitable registration database here should bring them right up.

And annual charity filings are online now.

You can also research everything about charities on the Ohio Attorney General’s new Charitable Law website.

“Bottom line, if it feels wrong, don’t go there. Trust your gut,” Yost said.

But what if it's too late?

If you got scammed, first call police, then report it to the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

They can do a civil investigation and shut down phony charities.

You can also report scams to the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad at 216-443-scam or online here.

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