You see them at busy intersections, rattling cans and asking for money. Not homeless panhandlers, but people who say they’re collecting for charities. And a lot of you are Declaring Your Curiosity.
Jim wants to know, “Is this legal?”
Chris asks, “Where’s the money going?”
And Eileen says, “I feel like I’m being hit on and find myself dodging them.”
We learned that giving on the street can be a tough call.
We were out pursuing another story one afternoon when we happened upon a group of men at a West Roxbury intersection collecting money.
Their buckets said they were raising money for “homeless children,” but when we asked them what charity they were working with, well, they wouldn’t say.
When we asked them where the money they were collecting goes, the best we got out of them was “the babies.”
There was no way for us to tell if they were legit.
One driver said, “Until you actually said it, I didn’t think about it because he has no logos, nothing. He doesn’t have an ID.”
And that’s the dilemma when you’re sitting at a red light. You might want to be generous, but you wonder if you’re being taken.
Another driver told us, “I got a feeling that sometimes people just take the money right out of the till.”
For some help we went to consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky who heads www.consumerworld.org.
“You really can’t do research when you’re waiting at a red light,” he says.
He also says, let the donator beware.
“You have to take their word for it or not give. Or maybe not give and check them out later,” says Dworsky.
But how do you do that?
“If you’re a non profit organization, a charity, you have to be registered with the Attorney General’s office,” says Dworsky.
That means you can check that charity out on the AG’s website.
But religious organizations are exempt.
They don’t have to register, so that makes research a lot harder.
On another afternoon we connected with members of Teen Challenge asking for donations at a Boston intersection.
Teen Challenge is a Christian based substance abuse program.
Since the organization has a religious affiliation, it doesn’t have to register, but does it anyway.
Members collecting money on the street also wear ID badges.
“We want to be a positive influence and let people know that what they’re donating to is a good cause; it is a verifiable cause,” says Rev. Josh Fulton of Teen Challenge.
But back to the guys in West Roxbury who wouldn’t tell us, well, anything. Edgar Dworsky has a warning.
“That’s a red flag right there. If they will not tell you who the money is being collected for, what the name of the organization is… drive on,” he says.
How about the fact that these people are standing out in the middle of busy streets?
Well, the Boston Police say as long as they move when the light turns green, they’re ok.
The state posts registered charities on its website.
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