State warns against so-called charities that scam consumers

Staff writerSeptember 17, 2013 

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Secretary of State Kim Wyman have warned consumers to be wary of some individuals who solicit donations on behalf of charities in front of local retailers, because they are not always what they seem.

"Increasingly the solicitors are asking for charity donations outside of retail stores," reads a joint news release. "The solicitors often set up a table at a store entrance or exit...The AGO Consumer Protection Division and the OSOS Charities Program have reason to believe the solicitors personally pocket most of the money instead of giving it to the intended charity."

Wyman added in the news release that charities need to register with the Secretary of State's Charities Program, with some exceptions. However, she added that a registration with the Charities Program is not an endorsement of the solicitor, or his or her charity.

Ferguson and Wyman suggest that consumers who encounter storefront solicitors research the organization before giving money. Also, they encourage to ask if he or she is registered with the Secretary of State.

"People can't assume that every charity registered with our program operates legally or in good faith," Wyman said in the release. "When we discover illegal activity we quickly coordinate with the Attorney General's Office so they can try to put a stop to it."

In February, The Olympian reported on a couple who face theft and other charges for running unlicensed raffles that donated only a small portion of their proceeds to an autism charity it purposed to benefit, according to court papers.

The couple operated their autism "charity" out of Olympia.

Joseph and Rena Searles' theft and other charges are pending in Thurston County Superior Court.

The Attorney General's Office has file a suit against Joseph Searles for his alleged violations of the state's charity regulations, the news release states.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 jpawloski@theolympian.com

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