OCEAN COUNTY- With the holiday season approaching, Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari wants to remind residents about the season of giving.

“Charitable giving is more important this year than in the past,” said Vicari, who serves as Chairman to the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs. “I encourage those who are capable of doing so to consider supporting charities and toy drives as we get closer to the holidays.”

While charitable contributions are always appreciated, it is important to remember to make sure your donations will get into the right hands where it will do the most good.

“The Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs is working to make sure our citizens do not get ripped off by unscrupulous scam artists looking to make a buck on the backs of legitimate charities,” said Vicari. “Consumer Affairs staff is available to help answer questions on scams and whether a charity is legitimate.”

Vicari noted that the Department of Consumer Affairs also has a checklist available that can help residents when they are deciding on a charity for a donation.

Checklist information includes the following things you should know:

• Know your charity. Never give to a charity you know nothing about. Ask for literature and read it. Ask questions. Honest charities encourage you to do so.
• Do not be misled by a familiar name. A dishonest charity will often have an impressive name or one that closely resembles the name of a respected, legitimate one.
• Demand identification. Always ask to see identification for both the solicitor and the charity. Be suspicious of anyone who cannot respond satisfactorily. All solicitors must disclose whether they are a volunteer or a paid solicitor.
• Beware of telephone solicitations. Refuse to commit yourself over the phone. Ask to be sent written information.
• Do not be seduced by emotional appeals. The hard luck story is a favorite of fraudulent operators.
• Do not succumb to pressure. No legitimate organization will expect you to contribute immediately, even if you have given in the past.
• Check out mail solicitations. Mail solicitations often come with a trinket or other item which you are told you can keep if you contribute. Federal law however says that unless you asked for the item, you may keep it without making a contribution.
• Ask about professional fundraisers. Ask the solicitor if a professional fund-raiser is being used and if so, what percentage of the total money will actually go to the charity which is asking for your help.