Beware of phony donation-seekers

By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield - bio | email

WINNSBORO, SC (WIS) - You've probably been sitting at a red light at some point when someone approached you asking for a charitable donation. But how do you know they're legit?

The Herald-Independent is how many folks in Fairfield County get their news, and Jill Cincotta writes it. "I feel almost protective of this community," said Cincotta.

That's why she headed out into an intersection last week with a camera and pen in hand. She got a tip about people collecting donations in the roadway.

"You're always looking for a story when you're a reporter and there could be a story anywhere, so I wanted to know who they were collecting for," Cincotta said.

She started snapping photos and asking questions. "I said 'I'm with the newspaper, what are you working on?'" recounted Cincotta. "She said, 'We don't give interviews, the newspaper always gets our story wrong.' I said, 'who do you work for?' She said, 'I really can't say. Maybe if you give me a donation, I'll tell you what my bucket says."

"Then one of them gave a sign like this, walked to another corner, got in a gold van with Florida plates and jumped in," continued Cincotta.

Winnsboro police say they didn't get any complaints, and the city tells us if you are a charity, you can collect money freely in the streets.

But the BBB warns about situations like these. First, see if you recognize the name. In the Winnsboro case, the reporter had never heard of the charity on the bucket.

Second, see if the group is local. BBB says local firefighters and Shriners often collect at roadways and are perfectly legitimate.
If you aren't sure, the BBB suggests holding on to your dollar until you've done some research.

Even though these collectors have left the town she serves, Cincotta says she did what she could. "I did write a story, hopefully it'll let people know and be aware everything isn't always as it seems," she said.

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