Charities Rise Up to Protect Their Good Names against ID Theft

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Charity organization throwing down the gauntlet - no more identity theft to be tolerated. Charities with brand recognition and brand value face the same challenges as major corporations, with off-shore and homeland copycats trying to steal their good names.

It happens more than the public knows

When a company posing as Cars 4 Causes®, the Charity that Gives to Charities® created a lookalike corporation and began siphoning off unsuspecting car donors, the well-known car donation charity reacted quickly with a 20-day cease-and-desist order.

It also reacted with a heavy sigh. This latest attempt to appropriate the charity's good name was just another in a continuing saga. "It happens more than the public knows," said Tim Finnigan, owner of Charity Development, which works with Cars 4 Causes as its car donation professional. Finnigan is also one of the original founders of Cars 4 Causes, so he's seen the ID theft from both inside the charity and outside of it.

Finnigan decided to open the discussion up to the public, posting his thoughts on his Charity Development Fundraising blog. "Identity thieves -- and that's what these copycat companies are -- expect charities to be easy prey," he said in a follow-up interview. "Maybe in the past, many have been. But these thieves are stealing the good names of charities and they are duping charity donors as well. That's theft, too."

His company, Charity Development, is a social entrepreneur, serving as a business partner and consultant to charities seeking car donations as charitable contributions. He advises his clients to pursue all identity thieves. "As a charity," he explained, "you are protecting your brand value, but you are also protecting your donors. They thought they were choosing you for their donation. They are innocent victims, too."

A charity's willingness to pursue brand theft legally, to take them to court and to sue for damages, often surprises the thieves, says Finnigan. They are also surprised that they are caught so easily. Often the theft becomes known when a donor runs into trouble with the bogus company and calls the charity they thought they were donating to.

Much of the theft is done over the Internet, too, and the larger charities discover these through their IT departments. They monitor links and searches, noting suspicious lookalike names and Internet addresses and then pursuing them.

"We in the charity realm protect our good names as diligently as do major corporations," says Finnigan. "We've built our brands through marketing, creating our reputations and building well-deserved trust amongst charitable donors and organizations….We're serious about protecting our good name."

Tim Finnigan, owner of Charity Development, LLC, is a car donation fund-raising consultant with more than 10 years of experience in the field. He works with not-for-profit organizations to help them make the most from all vehicles donated on their behalf.


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