The holiday season is a great time to show support to those in need. Before you donate, take time to do some research so you can avoid charity and donation scams. Here are a few tips on donating wisely.
Anytime you’re asked to give to charity, it’s important to research the organization. You don’t want to give your money to a fake charity or a scammer. Start by searching online for the organization or cause. Use terms like “scam”, “fraud”, “complaint’, or “reviews” with the name of the charity to see if there are any concerning information that would give you pause.
Make sure to double check the exact name of the organization. Scammers are notorious for using names and website addresses that sound similar to legitimate well-known charities.
Where to Check Out a Charity
Some states require charities and fundraisers to obtain registration. Contact your state’s charity regulator to verify if a charity or fundraiser is required to be registered. Organizations such as Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, and Candid can also help you research a charity. Look up the charity in the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search.
If you receive a call from someone asking you to donate, ask as many questions as you can to vet the organization. Some questions you can ask are:
- What is the charity’s exact name, web address, and mailing address?
- What is the cause of your charity and who are you raising money for?
- How much of my donation will go directly to the program I want to help?
- What else does the charity spend money on?
- Is the money being raised for a charity or a Political Action Committee (PAC)?
- Will my donation be tax-deductible? Donations to individuals and PACs are not tax-deductible.
Paying Safely and Donating Online
When donating, be careful using cash, gift card, wiring money, cryptocurrencies or bitcoin, or using payment apps such as CashApp and Zelle. Paying by credit card or check are safer options. Make sure you get a receipt and also maintain good records of the transaction. Monitor your account to make sure you are only charged the agreed upon amount.
If you’re donating online, check that the payment webpage where you enter your payment information is secure and has “https” in the web address. Make sure you check the terms to see if you are making a one-time or recurring donation. Check where the donation link goes. Confirm who is behind the request. When donating on social media, pay attention to who is asking for the donation. Take the same steps to vet the donation solicitation.
Watch For and Reporting Scams
If you feel rushed or pressured into making a donation, consider donating elsewhere. If the solicitor uses vague or sentimental claims but provides little details about where your donation will be used, it may be a scam. Watch for fake and bogus organizations that claim your donation is tax-deductible when it is not. Impostors pose as legitimate and familiar causes all the time. Don’t be fooled by their spoofing tactics. If anyone guarantees that you will win a sweepstakes in exchange for a donation, it is an illegal scam. Oftentimes your instincts will warn you that something is not quite right. Pay attention to that gut feeling and do as much research as you can before you give.
If you encounter a scam, report it. Contact the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov/complaint and your state charity regulator at nasconet.org to report the fraud.
Keep the joy in giving by following these helpful tips and share this information so others won’t get caught by preying scammers. Follow Business Consumer Alliance on Facebook for the trending scams, tips, and useful topics.