HUNTERSVILLE – If you get a phone call asking for donations for Hope House or Lydia’s Loft in Huntersville, think twice.

The nonprofit agencies have reported that someone has been calling local residents offering to pick up donations and take them to Lydia’s Loft or Hope House.

But Lydia’s Loft volunteer and coordinator Bev Clayton said they never solicit donations, and they’ve never offered a pick-up service.

He and volunteer Darlene O’Toole discovered the possible scam when they received a phone call asking for details about Lydia’s Loft, a program run by First Baptist Church-Huntersville.

“Last Tuesday (May 14) I was volunteering and the gentleman (who called) said he was trying to update the business directory, like the phone and address,” O’Toole said. “He asked a lot about the background, and I was proud to tell him about the service we provide.”

But the questions turned to details that she didn’t know, and O’Toole directed the gentleman to Clayton.

“He said he wanted to know about your fundraising. Well, we basically don’t do fundraising and we don’t solicit, except for maybe a coat drive at (First Baptist Church),” Clayton said.

He knew something wasn’t quite right about the call, so he dialed *69 to look up the number, and found it was a land-line based in Canton, Ga.

 “We think they’re finding a lot about our organization and then calling residents and offering to pick up items and asking for monetary donations,” O’Toole said.

A couple of weeks earlier, the church received a phone call from a local resident wanting to know if someone from Lydia’s Loft would come pick up her donations.

Clayton and O’Toole, who have both volunteered with Lydia’s Loft for many years, said they’ve never had a problem like this.

“It hurts our reputation,” O’Toole said. “It’s amazing what people think of to get money. I guess they get the stuff and sell it.

The Hope House Foundation, also based in Huntersville, helps provide temporary housing for single women and their children experiencing “situational” homelessness.

The foundation recently posted on its website that a Georgia agency has apparently been calling people in the region claiming to represent “Hope House in Charlotte” – which doesn’t exist.

“This agency is not associated or affiliated with Hope House in Huntersville, or the Hope House Foundation in any way. … We do not solicit monetary or clothing donations by telephone. Ever.”

Shawn Conroy, spokesman for the Georgia Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection, could not provide information about the agency or complaints before the Herald’s press deadline.

 

 

Protect yourself

The Federal Trade Commission reports phone scams claiming to benefit a charity are on the rise. Here are a few tips to protect yourself:

• Call the charity. Find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. The organization’s development staff should be able to help you.

• Do not provide your credit or check card number, bank account number or any personal information until you’ve thoroughly researched the charity.

• Be wary of charities that spring up too suddenly in response to current events and natural disasters. Even if they are legitimate, they probably don’t have the infrastructure to get the donations to the affected area or people.

• If a donation request comes from a group claiming to help your local community (for example, local police or firefighters), ask the local agency if they have heard of the group and are getting financial support.

• Know the difference between “tax exempt” and “tax deductible.” Tax exempt means the organization doesn’t have to pay taxes. Tax deductible means you can deduct your contribution on your federal income tax return.

• Never send cash donations. For security and tax purposes, it’s best to pay by check – made payable to the charity – or by credit card.

 

 

Find more tips and learn more at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0074-giving-charity.

 

Want to help?

Lydia’s Loft collects clothing, shoes and accessories, as well as small household goods such as towels and linens, to provide for those in need in the community. Bring item donations to the Loft, 203 N Old Statesville Road, Huntersville. For questions about donations, call 704-948-7797.

Volunteers said the center is always in need of towels, king- and queen-sized bed linens and brand-new underwear of all sizes.