Florida has highest rate of charity scams

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- A charity reform bill is awaiting the governor's signature – and legislators backing it say, i'll protect you from scams.

WTSP spoke with State Senator Jeff Brandes, who drafted the bill, about what this means for citizens and charities in our communities. Senator Brandes said, "The most important thing is for charities to understand where they are giving to."

Nearly one year ago, a $300 million gambling ring operation allegedly acting as a veterans charity was busted. Florida's lieutenant governor resigned and dozens of people were charged with crimes. State Senator Jeff Brandes said this was a red flag for change.

"They are looking people in the eye, asking for money, then not spending the money on charitable activities," he said.

In fact, Brandes said someone even lied to his face about it. "We need to separate the good charities from the bad. [I] think this bill will help us do that."

He said one respected charity in the Tampa Bay area true to its name is the Goodwill.

Shoppers there say they want to be protected. "Well, thank God. Glad someone is doing it," said one person.

Veterans Administration employee Dorra Rivera said she's seen too many scams in Florida. "Very upset. Being a veteran, it makes me very upset."

The bill would keep felons from soliciting charities. If a charity was shutdown elsewhere in the U.S., there would be no welcome mat here in Florida. Plus, there would be more investigators keeping watch. And, legislators added, when it comes to donating, you should see it to believe it.

"If it is a local charity, go visit, see, ask questions," said Brandes.

Another change: those drop-off clothing bins that give you no information about where items are going? That'll change. Charities will be required to post more information for you.

If the bill is signed, it'll go into effect in July.


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