Donors should beware of unknown charities

By Alex Davis |

Published 11/26 2013 12:43PM

Updated 11/26 2013 01:15PM

SPRINGFIELD -- The Attorney General has a warning to people wanting to donate to tornado victims.

"To be extremely safe with your contributions, they should have, and reputable firms do have, a local presence."

An organization raising funds for Washington tornado victims is under investigation. Heroes Memorial Foundation (HMF) is an out-of-state group suspected of improper fundraising. WCIA-3's Alex Davis finds out more.

HMF is out of Florida, but it's raising money for people in Illinois. The group isn't registered with the Attorney General's Charitable Trust Bureau, but it's asking for cash on Facebook and its website.

It's been over a week since an EF-4 tornado swept through Washington. Mere hours after the disaster, groups around the state and across the country began taking up collections.

"It's human nature to want to reach out and help."

But, even in times of charity, the Attorney General wants donors to be cautious in their giving.

"You want to make sure you're dealing with a reputable charity."

HMF was reported by someone questioning its cause. It collected more than $2,000 from nearly 60 donors before being flagged as not being registered.

"We were surprised it happened. We never had this happen before."

The group is new as of April. A spokesperson says it typically raises funds through t-shirt sales, but on this occasion, it asked for cash.

"I understand people's concerns with donating cash, so I believe that's where the difference was this time."

That spokesperson says the group plans to register with the Charitable Trust Bureau within the next few days. A $215 fee will come from the donations. Meanwhile, the spokesperson says it's trying to "re-boost" its reputation.

"The best I can do is answer questions truthfully and honestly. I think the people are going to understand that this is, what is, you know, nothing more on our part, you know, than not filling out paperwork."

The Attorney General will continue investigating. If people feel the need to give, the office recommends you do your homework first.

"Get it down as local as possible and you'll be pretty assured that your money is going to the most need."

The Attorney General's Office, Better Business Bureau and IRS all have information on reputable charities.

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