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IRS: Beware of fake Hurricane Harvey charities

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The IRS is warning well-intentioned Illinoisans to double-check the charity they’re donating to. It could be a scam.

Hurricane Harvey has caused billions of dollars in damage to the Houston area, leaving many without basic necessities. With charities taking in donations of food, supplies and funds, a number of those outlets are actually scammers looking to get your donation and credit card information.

“Their whole goal is to solicit money or financial information,” said IRS Spokesman Michael Devine.

Devine said the IRS has seen people scammed by email, phone call, “Sometimes they’re so bold that they’ll go door-to-door,” he said.

He says scammers know peoples’ guards are down in the wake of a disaster like Harvey.

“Americans want to be helpful. They want to help those who are in distress,” Devine said. “They’re taking advantage of this.”

He says the best safeguard against getting taken by a fake charity is to stick to ones you know and don’t give out personal financial information.

Some tips from the IRS to avoid being taken by a fake charity.

  • Be sure to donate to recognized charities.
  • Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. The IRS website at IRS.gov has a search feature, Exempt Organizations Select Check, through which people may find qualified charities; donations to these charities may be tax-deductible.
  • Don’t give out personal financial information — such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords — to anyone who solicits a contribution. Scam artists may use this information to steal a donor’s identity and money.
  • Never give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the donation.
  • Consult IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, available on IRS.gov. This free booklet describes the tax rules that apply to making legitimate tax-deductible donations. Among other things, it also provides complete details on what records to keep.

Taxpayers suspecting fraud by email should visit IRS.gov and search for the keywords “Report Phishing.”

 

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Illinois News Network, publisher of ILNews.org, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media company dedicated to the principles of transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility in the state of Illinois. INN is Illinois’ pioneering non-profit news brand, offering content from the statehouse and beyond to Illinoisans through their local media of choice and from their digital hub at ILNews.org. Springfield Daily was granted republishing permission by INN.

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Because of Illinois case, U.S. Supreme Court tosses verdict saying attorneys can’t be forced to support political speech

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The U.S. Supreme Court has tossed a verdict that said lawyers are required to pay an annual membership just to practice in a state and an attorney working on the case sees Illinois is an example for other states.

Just as public employee unions can’t force nonmembers to pay representation fees, state bar associations can’t force lawyers to subsidize their operations and political activity, the U.S. Supreme Court said in a recent ruling about five months after it banned forced union fees in the landmark Janus vs. AFSCME decision.

Earlier this month, the nation’s high court threw out a 2017 lower court ruling in the North Dakota case, Fleck vs. Wetch, that allowed states to require lawyers to subsidize state bar associations.

The Supreme Court remanded the case without a formal ruling in light of the decision in the Janus case. In the Janus case, the Supreme Court ruled an Illinois state worker, Mark Janus, had his free speech rights violated by being forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

Justices tossed the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Fleck Vs. Wetch and ordered the circuit court to reconsider in light of Janus. The case centered around North Dakota attorney Arnold Fleck, who questioned why he needed to pay dues to The State Bar Association of North Dakota when their political interests diverged. In North Dakota, as in many other states, a lawyer must be a dues-paying member of the bar to practice law in the state.

Attorneys in Illinois aren’t required to pay dues to the Illinois Bar Association after passing the organization’s qualifying exam. In other states, attorneys must pay annual dues to the state bar association to practice law.

In its decision, the court ruled that offering an opt-out clause to forced dues wasn’t enough to protect free speech rights.

Goldwater Institute Vice President Timothy Sandefur, who helped defend the plaintiff from North Dakota, said lawyers shouldn’t have to pay hundreds of dollars a year just to work in a state.

“Being forced to join an organization like that violates the First Amendment right of freedom of association,” he said. “You can’t constitutionally be forced to join an organization or to subsidize political activities that you might disagree with.”

State bar associations often measure and endorse judges and other judicial appointments and seek to influence state legislators, some of whom are lawyers.

“The [American Bar Association] and groups like that have a great deal of influence in the political process,” he said.

Goldwater Senior Attorney Jacob Huebert said many states, Illinois included, have no requirements.

“Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and a bunch of others manage to regulate the profession without violating anybody’s First Amendment rights,” he said. “If they can do it, all states can do it.”

Watchdog.org writer Noell Evans contributed to this report.

Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org

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Bustos’ American-made flag bill passes in the House

Thomas Clatterbuck

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In 2015, the Federal government spent $4.4 million on foreign-made American flags. Almost all of these flags, which were used by the Department of Defense, came from China. Illinois Congresswoman Cheri Bustos was appalled when she learned this from a veteran. Under current law, flags only need to be made of 50 percent American-made materials.

Bustos’ bill would require American flags purchased with taxpayer dollars be wholly produced in the United States. Yesterday, that bill passed the House. Bustos has been working on this issue for years; and this is not the first time her measure has made it out of the house.

HR 3121 will now go to the Senate to be voted on there.

You can watch Bustos’ speech in the player. You can read the bill here.

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IEMA: Make sure donations go to reputable hurricane disaster recovery groups

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Make sure that you make a difference.

That’s the advice from Illinois’ emergency managers as people look to help in the aftermath of now-Tropical Storm Florence.

Whether you are donating money or your time, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency says it’s important to give to reputable charities and aid organizations.

IEMA’s Rebecca Clark says a lot of people are going to want to help now that Florence has moved through parts of North Carolina.

That’s great, she adds, but wants to make sure the help that people offer makes it to the hurricane zone.

“It’s really important that people who are looking to help make sure they find a reputable organization, to make a difference,” Clark said.

Clark said that a number of organizations in Illinois need volunteers to help as they send aid to the Carolinas and other states impacted by Florence.

“One place that we like to send people is the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster [organization],” Clark said. “It maintains a database of volunteer and charity organizations that are involved in a number of ways.”

As always, there will be some scammers looking to take advantage of the storm.

Clark said Ready.Illinois.Gov also has a list of reputable charities that people can trust.

Article by Benjamin Yount, Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org 

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