Archive for the ‘Donations’ Category

Service of Fingers Crossed: When to Believe Thieves

Thursday, September 10th, 2020

Photo: smithsonianmag.com

When you comply to a ransom demand you’re not in the driver’s seat. You must hope that the thieves are honorable. If you watch “Law and Order” or its offshoots,  you’re familiar with the concept even if you’ve not yourself been plagued by such a horrifying theft.

The cyberthieves Sarah Cascone wrote about on artnet.com hadn’t absconded with a relative. Her article was: “Hackers Have Stolen Private Information From Donor Lists to 200 Institutions, Including the Smithsonian and the UK’s National Trust.” The subhead was: “The Parrish Art Museum and the Corning Museum of Glass were also hit by ransomware.” In addition to museums, data from hospitals, 16 US universities and 33 UK charities was lifted.

Photo: parrishart.org

According to Cascone, the attack on Blackbaud–“a third-party cloud software company”–happened in May. Blackbaud told its clients a month later. They said that “the compromised data was limited to demographic information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, and donation summaries, and did not include credit card information, bank account information, or social security numbers.” We hope.

Cascone reported that the Corning Museum said it doesn’t “keep credit cards, bank accounts, or social security numbers in the system hosted by Blackbaud.” One wonders where do they keep it and is it safe?

Photo: credibly.com

Blackbaud said it paid the cybercriminals and confirmed that they had destroyed what they’d stolen, according to Cascone. They paid in Bitcoin. “’What I find unsettling about Blackbaud’s situation is that they just took the hackers at their word that the stolen data was destroyed. In my experience, hackers almost always leave behind hard-to-find malware so that they can still access the system,’ said Wood.” Tyler Cohen Wood is a cyber-security consultant and the former cyber deputy chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Cascone continued: “She advises that museums employing third-party providers familiarize themselves with the company’s procedures for handling ransomware attacks and to have secure data backups, even if that means paying extra.”

If you were notified by an organization that such a breach had occurred, would you get a new credit card or bank account number even if you were told the cybercriminals had no access to–or had destroyed–that information? Have you ever asked an organization to which you donate money how they protect your financial and personal information? Is cash the only secure way to donate?

Photo: passwordboss.com

Service of When Should an Organization Give Back Tainted Money?

Monday, October 7th, 2019

Photo: moneymastery.com

By now most have heard about the wealthy parents who in all spent $25 million to ensure their offspring were accepted to US colleges. Some faked athletic expertise and others had someone fiddle with their kids’ SAT and ACT scores. William “Rick” Singer was the mastermind/broker who hid behind his Key Worldwide Foundation.

Coaches who played ball gave some of the money to their athletic departments according to Louise Radnofsky in her Wall Street Journal article, “Many Colleges That Got Money Tainted by Admissions Scandal Still Have It –Unlike political campaigns which routinely return controversial donations, colleges are holding funds.”

Photo: web.stanford.edu

According to Radnofsky there are no rules that cover colleges under these circumstances. A former education policy aide to the Democratic party said while he’d wished that low-income students had been given the money, he thought that the decision of what to do was up to prosecutors and courts–not the schools. Most–not all–of Radnofsky’s examples show that schools made that decision.

“Stanford University, the University of Southern California, the University of Texas at Austin and Wake Forest University were directly identified by federal prosecutors as recipients of payments made by Mr. Singer or his clients, sometimes through his charity in connection with specific admissions,” she wrote.

Wake Forest University. Photo: wfu.edu

Radnofsky added that Stanford is in touch with the California attorney general to pass on the approximately $770,000 that Singer directed to the sailing program. The sailing coach pleaded guilty to accepting the money.

“USC said that ‘because of the ongoing U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation, we are unable to discuss details related to it.'” The university may have received as much as $1.3 million, and its water-polo program was enriched with $250,000 more.

University of Texas received money in 2015 which it used to renovate its tennis facilities.

Wake Forest redirected $50,000 to its Magnolia Scholars program for first-generation college students. Its volleyball program was the original recipient of most.

Chapman University [$400,000] is waiting on the California attorney general to approve its donation to organizations “focused on helping at-risk youth and low-income students gain access to higher education.”

DePaul University, where Singer’s son graduated, is not returning its $150,000.

Two colleges– Georgetown and the University of Miami–identified as involved from public tax records said they found no link to Singer for any donations. NYU’s athletics law firm is still reviewing the circumstances around $338,379 donations. “Representatives for Baruch College, listed as a recipient of $50,000 in 2015, didn’t respond to emails and telephone inquiries about the money.”

Should colleges donate their ill gotten gains to student-focused charities? Should they keep the money?

Photo: depaulbluedemons.com

Service of You Can’t Give It Away: Restrictions Make it Hard to Donate Goods to Major Charities

Monday, February 12th, 2018

Friends live in two places: An oversized Manhattan studio apartment and a New England home on the top of a mountain. They often update their wardrobes so their apartment closet became overwhelmed with clothing. Fred, [not his real name], spent one Saturday in the city cleaning and reorganizing. The result: Seven 30-gallon garbage bags filled with clean, ironed shirts, jackets, slacks and sweaters, some never worn.

Fred’s hallway with bags.

Fred called, among others, the Salvation Army, Good Will Industries and Outofthecloset.org, that supports HIV research. He wanted to donate the clothing.

What he learned was an eye-opener:

  • “The Good Will store doesn’t pick up,” he wrote me. “I would have to hire a large cab and deliver the bags myself. The Good Will general pick-up online is a joke.” Note: Both friends work crazy hours and scoot to their weekend retreat to catch their respective breaths on Friday. There would be no time on weekdays for them to deliver the bags.
  • “The Salvation Army wouldn’t be able to pick up until mid March,” Fred continued. Living with bags clogging the entrance to the apartment for over a month was not an option.
  • “Outofthecloset.org won’t pick up anything less than 20 13 gallon-size plastic bags which must be filled to the top. In any case, they can’t come by for several weeks.
  • “Another organization wanted items packed in a certain kind of box and required a sticker from UPS.”

I was sad to read that Fred is “tossing good clothes in the garbage little by little because charity has such strict rules.” He added: “Beggars are choosers indeed!”

Perhaps this is only a big city issue: Average NYC apartments usually don’t have space to store giveaway items for a month or more and most people don’t have cars in town which would make drop-offs easier. [Who wants to risk getting a ticket as you load the car in front of your apartment?] In any case, Fred’s cars stay at his house or at the train station parking lot.

Have you run into such roadblocks to giving? Is the glitch because charities don’t have the volunteers they may once have had to pick up goods or that their budgets are so squeezed that they can’t afford a sufficient number of drivers and vans to do the pickups?

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