Charity scams: Make sure your money gets to the right place
Charities use many methods to get your attention, among them email, phone calls, and social networking sites. But before you donate, make sure you’re dealing with a genuine organization because scammers posing as nonprofits are after your money, too.
Fraudulent emails — whether from a charity or not – look like official communications from real organizations, but they aren’t. By posing as a trustworthy entity, the scammers want to fool you into giving them valuable information, such as your usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers. They may also be trying to infect your computer by directing you to a website full of malware, again giving them access to your information.
Scammers often take advantage of current events and certain times of the year, such as natural disasters, epidemics and health scares, economic concerns (e.g., IRS scams), major political elections, and, of course, holidays.
So take care with all emails, and always think carefully before opening email attachments. Here are some useful guidelines on handling attachments safely, and here is some additional information on social engineering attacks and how to help protect yourself.
Is that charity for real?
With charities, you can verify the legitimacy of any email solicitation by contacting the organization directly through a trusted contact number. You can find trusted contact information for many charities on the BBB National Charity Report Index.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also provided useful guidelines, including avoiding any charity or fundraiser that:
- Refuses to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, costs, and how the donation will be used.
- Won’t provide proof that a contribution is tax-deductible.
- Uses a name that closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization.
- Thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making.
- Uses high-pressure tactics like trying to get you to donate immediately, without giving you time to think about it and do your research.
- Asks for donations in cash or asks you to wire money.
- Offers to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect the donation immediately.
- Guarantees sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. (By law, you never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.)
For more, see this FTC checklist to make sure your donation benefits the people and organizations you want to help.
Whenever you feel that impulse to give to worthy organizations, I hope you take care to make sure your generosity benefits its intended targets!