Protect Your Identity From Holiday Charity Scams

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Beware of holiday scammers. During the holidays, it is common for people to want to open up their wallets and donate money to people who are less fortunate. Unfortunately, however, many of these organizations that start collecting money this time of years are big, old scams.

If you are thinking of donating to a charity this upcoming holiday season, you should do some research before you give anything.

By finding out as much as you possibly can about the organizations you want to donate to, you can avoid frauds who want to take advantage of your charity. There are some good tips out there that you can use to ensure that your contributions are put to good use, and you should start by looking at this site: ftc.gov/charityfraud.

The more information that you can get about a charity, the better off you will be. If you are doubtful about a charity, look it up on your own and reach out to them. If they seem to only want cash, for instance, this is a sign of a scam. Why? Because there are fewer records to prove you donated.

Another thing you should look at is the websites of these charities. Most good charities have a clean, easy to follow website. They should have information about the history of the organization as well as their tax-deductible status. They most definitely shouldn’t ask for information such as your Social Security number.

You can verify a charity by contacting organizations like Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, or the Wise Giving Alliance through the Better Business Bureau. If you are part of a crowdfunding campaign, you should also look into what types of fees are involved and how much of your donation is actually used for the recipient.

The Signs of a Scam

Today, charities and fundraising groups use a number of methods to find potential donors. These include email, the phone, the internet, and face-to-face contact. Coincidently, scammers use the same methods to take advantage of people. Regardless of the method, you should avoid any fundraising group or charity that exhibits these signs:

  • Refusing to give details about its mission, identity, associated costs, or how the donations are used.
  • Not providing proof of its tax deductible status.
  • Using a name that is very similar to a reputable, better-known organization.
  • Thanks you for donations that you don’t remember giving.
  • Using high-pressure methods to urge you to donate immediately without giving you ample time to research.
  • Asks for donations that are cash only or asks for a money wire.
  • Offers to send someone to collect your donation immediately.
  • Guarantees that you will win something in exchange for a contribution.

Good Giving Checklist

You should take the following precautions to ensure that your charitable donation gets to the people you want it to go to:

  • Ask for information about the organization including the name, address, and phone number.
  • Get the exact name of the organization and take time to do research. Search online for the name of the organization and add words like “scam” or “complaints.”
  • Call the organization. Ask if they are aware of any solicitation for donations. They should be able to quickly give you this information.
  • Find out if the organization is registered in your state. You can do this by looking at the National Association of State Charity Officials.
  • Check the name of the charity with other organizations including GuideStar, Charity Watch, Charity Navigator, or the Wise Giving Alliance.
  • Ask if the representative is paid to be a fundraiser. If yes, you should ask them what charity they represent, how much of your donation actually goes to the charity, how much goes to the cause, and how much goes to the fundraising efforts.
  • Keep good records of your charitable donations.
  • Make a plan for donating each year. This way, you can choose which organizations to support.
  • Visit the IRS website to learn more about what types of organizations are able to get tax deductible donations.
  • Understand the difference between “tax deductible” and “tax exempt.” Tax deductible indicates that you can deduct your donation on your income tax return. Tax exempt indicates that the organization doesn’t have to pay any taxes.
  • Never send a donation that is cash. It is always best to pay by check or credit card. 
  • Do not wire any money to anyone claiming that they represent a charity. Scammers do this often because wiring is just like sending cash…and once you send it, it’s gone.
  • Don’t give any check card or credit card numbers, bank account information, or personal info until you are absolutely sure the organization is legit.
  • Be cautions of any charity that is brand new. Even if they are legitimate, they probably don’t have the means to get all of the donations they are collecting to the right people.
  • If these requests come from groups that claim to help the local community, such as a fire department or police department, call these departments to ask about the donation requests. 
  • If you text to send a donation, this appears on your mobile phone bill. Check that and check with your mobile phone provider about these organizations.

There are a number of excellent charities that you can donate to during the holiday season. If you make sure that you do your research, you should be able to give without worry.

The Do Not Call Registry and Charities

You can use the National Do Not Call Registry to reduce calls from telemarketers, but this does not stop political groups or charities from calling you. However, if a fundraising group is calling on behalf of a charity, you can ask them not to call you any longer. If these calls continue after you ask them to stop calling, they could be fined.

Reporting Charity Scams

If you believe that you are a victim of a scam involving a charity or fundraising group, or one that is violating the Do Not Call laws, make sure to file a complaint with the FTC. These complaints help to stop these bad organizations and help to detect patterns.