After a local cancer charity in Maryland was ordered to stop soliciting, WUSA9's Special Assignment Unit looked into how charities become official.

The order was issued against We Can Cer-Vive! and its president and founder, Mia Wright, for multiple violations of Maryland Solicitations Act. The violations include using false and misleading advertising materials in connection with a solicitation and failing to register with the Secretary of State before soliciting.

RELATED: Local charity We Can Cer-Vive! ordered to stop soliciting in Md.

So where did things go so off the rails with Wright's organization? And -- how can you figure out which charities are legit -- and which aren't?

On Wednesday, Michael Schlein in the Maryland Secretary of State's office said this was not a paperwork snafu.

"If this was a registration mistake," he said. "You can fix that."

Schlein said the office didn't receive one shred of registration or documentation paperwork from Mia Wright and We CAN Cer-Vive!

Here's the steps Wright should have taken if she was going to set up this charity within the rules:

  • Register with the Secretary of State, like any other business.
  • Then go to the IRS to get non-profit status That's key because people want to make those donations tax deductible.
  • Charities also need to register for solicitation in every state where they want to collect donations or hold fundraisers.

Investigators say Wright was claiming her group was a non-profit, even though it had never filed any paperwork with the IRS.

More than 30 states require some level of registration if you want to collect donations from people who live there.

Which begs the question, how do you if a charity we are thinking about donating to is legit?

Here's a couple of great websites to help you check: