Kemp, whose office regulates charities, says that groups sometimes pose as charities to commit fraud. Other groups, he notes, are legitimate but spend lavishly on salaries and operations, rather than on core charitable functions.
Donors should absolutely avoid responding to telephone solicitations and never give credit card or other personal or financial information over the phone. Kemp advises asking telephone solicitors to send requests in writing.
He also advises that anyone who is interested in a tax deduction for a contribution should clearly understand whether an organization qualifies. Not all non-profit organizations or even tax-exempt organizations can allow their donors to write off contributions.
Gas high, but drivers thankful
Many drivers are giving more at the pump than a year ago but they still have reason to be thankful. Prices in many parts of the country have fallen recently, and AAA says gas prices could end the year lower than where they started.
The national average Wednesday was $3.43, down 44 cents from mid-September although still 8 cents higher than a year earlier. Gas started the year at $3.28 a gallon. AAA says it should be between $3.10 and $3.30 when 2012 ends.
Still, because the price was so high for so much of the year, Americans are likely to spend a record amount for gas in 2012. Tom Kloza of the Oil Price Information Service estimates that Americans will spend about $483 billion on fuel this year, eclipsing last year’s record of $471 billion. And that’s even as Americans use less gas by taking shorter trips or driving more fuel-efficient cars.
Judge OKs Hostess’ request
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.— A bankruptcy court judge on Wednesday approved a request by Hostess Brands Inc. to begin winding down its operations.
The ruling came after the maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread failed in last-ditch negotiations to end a strike by its second-largest union.
Hostess now has the green light to terminate the jobs of its 18,000 workers without risking legal action, and to sell off its brands.
Mortgages hit record-low
WASHINGTON — Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell to record lows this week, a trend that is boosting home sales and aiding the housing recovery.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Wednesday that the average rate on the 30-year loan dipped to 3.31 percent, the lowest on records dating back to 1971. That's down from 3.34 percent last week, the previous record low.
The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage also dropped to 2.63 percent. That's down from 2.65 percent last week and also a new record.
Future economic activity up
WASHINGTON — A measure of the U.S. economy intended to signal future activity rose only slightly last month, suggesting growth could stay weak.
The Conference Board said Wednesday that its index of leading indicators increased 0.2 percent in October after a 0.5 percent gain in September. The index is intended to anticipate economic conditions three to six months out.
The strength in October came from lower interest rates, a drop in applications for unemployment benefits, and an increase in demand for large manufactured goods.