When you’re a generous person at heart, it can be easy to get caught up in the spirit of charitable gift-giving. But your compassion is exactly what scammers are counting on. If you’re not careful, you could put your identity and finances at risk. Use these tips to help protect yourself from fraud.
What Are Charity Scams?
Charity scams are an attempt to get you to conduct transactions with someone posing as a charitable organization. Fraudsters create “charities” to ask for money—especially around holidays, when many people are feeling generous. Unfortunately, they’ve also used natural disasters and other tragic events to capitalize on people’s emotions.
Rather than using donations to further a specific cause, these scammers line their pockets with their victims’ “donations.” If you’re not sure about a charity’s status, do your own research and contact your local Better Business Bureau to confirm it’s legitimate before you donate.
Some scammers may also want to steal your personal information such as:
- Credit card or bank account numbers
- Social Security numbers
- Other identifying information
How to Avoid the Scam
Charity fraud can take many forms. These scams can happen online, through the mail, over the phone, and even in-person. Regardless of the ruse, scammers are looking for ways to trick you into giving them what they want without giving you anything in return. Here are some “Do’s and Don’ts” that can help you avoid losing money or having your identity stolen:
- Always go the charity’s website directly. You can hover over email links and check the URL carefully to make sure they’re directing you to a charity’s real website, but don’t click on them.
- Use your credit card or a check for any charitable gift giving to help protect your information. Check statements to make sure your card was billed correctly.
- Research new-to-you charities prior to giving them money, and pay attention to any complaints, negative reviews, or low ratings online.
- Visit one or more of these websites to help confirm the existence of a charity and assess its reputation and ratings.
- Feel pressured into making a quick decision or providing any personal information that scammers could use to steal your identity.
- Make donations (online or otherwise) using cash, gift cards, wire transfers, or other non-traceable forms of payment.
- Click on links in emails, give through social media ads, or donate through the mail before carefully researching the organization.
- Make online donations using a public Wi-Fi connection or network that’s not password protected. Use only your home’s secure Wi-Fi network or direct internet connection.
Protect Yourself and Loved Ones
Help stay safe by protecting yourself and your loved ones from these types of scams. Remember, if any charity websites, emails, ads, direct mail, or other communications seem abnormal, don’t make a donation or provide any sensitive information.
If you or someone you know is a victim of charity fraud, there are multiple ways to report the incident(s) through federal and state agencies.
While there’s no foolproof way guard against all scams, following these tips can help lower your risk and provide greater peace of mind.
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