WWL-TV: Beware those panhandling for 'charities' in New Orleans -- they may be scamming you
By Times-Picayune Staff
September 25, 2009, 8:24AM
Beware panhandlers who claim to be collecting money for a legitimate charity on New Orleans street corners -- unless they can produce a credential when you ask them to, they are most likely scamming you out of money, according to a WWL-TV news report.
A WWL-TV report warns that panhandlers claiming to be collecting money for charity are probably lying to you if they can't produce a credential when you ask them to.A reporter for the station found that two panhandlers -- a woman on the corner of Earhart Boulevard and South Carrollton Avenue supposedly collecting for the battered women and children of "United Ministries," and a man on the corner of Elysian Fields and Interstate 610 supposedly collecting for the battered women of "United in Christ Ministries" -- couldn't produce the city Finance Department permits they need to legally collect money for charities.
The reporter had a Better Business Bureau representative check the names of the two charities against those that appear two separate databases of legitimate charities. Neither name appeared.
The Better Business Bureau representative said in the report that all people wishing to donate money for charity should check with them before handing any money over to any charity.
Begging for money from motorists is illegal in New Orleans. Legitimate charities can petition money from motorists but need a permit from the city government to do so.
____Related Report _____________________________________________________________
Donation seekers on street not always legit
11:48 AM CDT on Friday, September 25, 2009
Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS – Stop at some intersections in New Orleans and you better hold on to your wallet. Panhandlers come up to your window with a bucket and a story and ask for money.
Video: Watch the Story A woman named Veronica at the corner of Earhart and Carrollton told Eyewitness News, she was collecting for a charity named "United Ministries."
A man on another corner, Elysian Fields and the I-610, who did not want to give his name said his donations were going to the “United in Christ Ministries.”
Similar sounding organizations, two different street corners, but the same pitch.
"It's a ministry for battered women and children," the man said. "We help children. We help women that have been in troubled. That have been battered and everything. We raise money to help them take care of their needs and get them back into society."
"It's a battered women's shelter," said Veronica. "We're starting up a ministry. We've been going for about eight years. We take in battered women, children, addicts."
"Those are some key words of course and when people hear those words, "UNITY", "battered women" anything of that sort they are more easily to dig into their pocketbooks or their wallet," said Cynthia Albert of the Better Business Bureau.
Albert checked two separate databases of legitimate charities and said the organizations mentioned by the roadside solicitors were not listed.
"There's so many sound alike, so called charities," said Albert. "They'll get one that is legitimate and they may change just one word. And, people will think it's the real one and contribute."
The panhandlers have something else in common.
"Do we all have a permit? No, at the moment, no we do not," said Veronica.
The man at Elysian and 610 also admitted he did not have the proper paperwork.
"We also have applied with the permit at City Hall," he said. "That's all I'm going to say at this point at this time."
In New Orleans you must have a permit from the city finance department to collect money on city streets. Each solicitor must also obtain an identification card.
The BBB says if the person who comes up to your window can't produce the ID card, you're probably being scammed.
"If you give your money to someone who has no credentials, that is not really a charity, when a good one comes along, you may not be able to afford it," said Albert.
The BBB says before you give, check the website, http://www.give.org. It can tell you the charities that pass the smell test and the ones that don't.