Crime Watch

Crime Watch: Legislature may change law on charities


Special to The Miami Herald

My past columns have addressed many scams that affect us in our daily life including charities that we so strongly believe in.

As a non-profit organization we at Citizens’ Crime Watch depend on the community and businesses with great hearts that want to donate, but so many have gotten burned that they think twice to donating. There are many wonderful charities, but let’s face it, South Florida is a fraud capital and bad guys are out there doing their best to take advantage of the good hearts of those that give. Now there is legislation in the works that will put these bad guys in their place — in jail — for using deceptive practices.

Below is information that I asked my good friend Ivonne Perez-Suarez from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to share with us what is being done about these various issues.

Here is what she had to say:

Medicare scams. Toll booth scams. Lottery, travel and tax scams. Unfortunately, South Florida is well-known for scams and frauds of all types.

Even charitable causes have been used to scam consumers. Some organizations prey on generous, unsuspecting givers by claiming to support American heroes who put their lives on the line to protect us, first responders who rushed to save the lives of others in the event of a disaster, or children who are battling cancer. These individuals and organizations cannot be trusted with Floridians’ hard earned money.

At the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, it is our responsibility to help safeguard Floridians from fraud and deception. Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam takes this responsibility very seriously and is working to prevent the misuse of charitable contributions by cracking down on fraud and deception.

Commissioner Putnam partnered with state Sen. Jeff Brandes, Rep. Jim Boyd and Florida’s network of reputable charities to rewrite the laws that govern charities. Together, they proposed legislation this session to prohibit felons from soliciting funds in the name of charity and ban charities that have violated certain laws in other states from trying their scams on Floridians.

The proposed legislation also increases reporting requirements for charities that receive more than $1 million per year but spend less than 25 percent on their charitable cause. These charities will be required to disclose financial transactions between board members and their family members, fund-raising expenses and travel expenses. With this information available through an online, interactive database, Floridians will be empowered to make more informed decisions about which organizations deserve their support.

This legislation is not only intended to crack down on fraud and deception, but also strengthen Florida’s network of reputable charities. The few bad actors are a black eye on the network of reputable charities throughout Florida that do have a powerful, positive impact on our communities. From food banks to hospitals, charitable organizations have improved the lives of every Floridian in some way, shape or form. Your donations to reputable, law-abiding charities will help further their mission.

The legislation is making its way through the House and Senate this session and, if enacted, will help us better protect Florida’s 19 million residents from fraud and deception.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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