Head of Staten Island, N.Y.’s only community-based commercial bank says scammers may be attempting to divert assistance in wake of latest natural disasters
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Victory State Bank is reminding business owners and consumers to be alert to scammers seeking to pocket humanitarian-minded donations.
“In the wake of recent storms that have crippled some communities in the South and Midwest, the aftermath of Japan’s earthquake and other natural disasters, many of us want to provide assistance in any way we can. But, at the same time, we should remember: Con artists may be trying to divert donations away from legitimate charities and to themselves,” said Ralph M. Branca, president and CEO of Victory State Bank.
Branca, who heads the only community-based commercial bank in Staten Island, N.Y., applauds the work of legitimate charitable initiatives, but suggests people follow simple guidelines before contributing to any organization they are unfamiliar with.
“The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, agrees it’s wise to be cautious when making your donation decisions,” said Branca, who endorses the following scam-avoiding tips offered by the government agency:
* Be wary of charities that spring up overnight in connection with current events or natural disasters.
* Ask for written information about the charity, including the name, address and telephone number.
* Call the charity to find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name.
* Watch out for similar sounding names.
* 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.
* Do not send or give cash donations.
* Contact the office that regulates charitable organizations and charitable solicitations in your state to see if the charity or fund-raiser is required be registered. If so, check to make sure that the company you’re talking to is registered.
“In New York,” Branca said, “most organizations that engage in charitable activities or solicit charitable contributions within the state must register with the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau.”
VSB Bancorp Inc. is the one-bank holding company for Victory State Bank. Victory State Bank, a Staten Island-based commercial bank, commenced operations on Nov. 17, 1997. The Bank’s initial capitalization of $7.0 million was primarily raised within the Staten Island community. The Bancorp’s total equity has increased to $26 million, primarily through the retention of earnings. Victory State operates five full-service locations on Staten Island: The main office in Great Kills, and branches in the communities of West Brighton, St. George, Dongan Hills and Rosebank.