The holiday season is a time that finds many in a giving spirit. From the solicitors outside your local grocery store, to charities that are close to your heart, generosity is in the air. Don’t let your kind gesture fall into the hands of scammers. Here’s some safe giving tips to keep in mind all year long.
Give to a Cause You Care About
Whether it’s a foundation or organization to help children, mothers in need, disaster victims, the elderly, or perhaps veterans, do your research to find a cause you care about. Search the internet for causes and charities that support your concerns. Look for reviews and ratings of the organizations to get a better picture of what other supporters have to say.
Researching Charitable Organizations
There are some great resources available to you to verify a charity and research what happens to contributions. Here’s our list of what we’ll call the “3-C” charity research organizations:
Charity Navigator - An organization that rates over 200,000 charities registered with the Internal Revenue Service under section 501 (c)(3). They provide free access to data, tools, and resources about charities.
CharityWatch - An independent charity watchdog that reports on how charities use donations and exposes nonprofits that abuse contributions.
Candid - A valuable resource tool providing information on where a nonprofit gets money, where it goes, and how it helps the communities they serve.
Check with Your State
You can contact your state’s Charity Regulator to see if a fundraiser is registered. The National Association of State Charity Official’s website lists regulators by state.
Looking Up Tax Exempt Organizations
To ensure that your donation is tax deductible, visit the IRS’s website and verify the organization's registration status.
Avoid paying through wire transfers, gift cards, or cryptocurrency. If anyone asks you to pay through these methods, it is most likely a scam. Instead, donate by credit card or check, two of the safest ways to contribute.
Watching for Fraudsters
Fake charities and causes are abundant during the holiday season. Fraudsters count on the generosity of people and prey on their kindness. Don’t fall victim. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t donate unless you’ve checked out the cause, charity, or organization.
- Don’t fall for high-pressure tactics rushing you to make a donation. Take your time and consider who and what you would like to contribute to.
- Watch for fundraisers that claim you’ve already pledged. Verify that you have committed to donate and don’t just trust someone that makes the claim that you previously pledged to make a donation. This can be a lie.
- Don’t fall for sweepstakes or prize winnings in exchange for a donation. This is a clear sign of a scam.
- Be on the lookout for spoofed caller ID numbers. Scammers have misused modern technology to fake caller ID information and make it appear that the call is coming from a legitimate charity. Don’t get fooled by phony caller ID.
- Avoid donating to campaigns on social media just because a friend or family member posts it. Do your research because scammers often use social media to carry out their ruse.
Report any scams or fraudulent actions to your local authorities, the Federal Trade Commission, and your state regulator. You should also file a complaint with Business Consumer Alliance, so we can warn the public.
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