Beware of Phony Holiday Charity Scams

by Robin Slade

Red triangular other dangers warning sign on white

The holiday season can tug on our heartstrings and bring out our natural good-will. Many of us use this time of year to look for opportunities where we can help those in need. Whether it’s giving your spare change to the guy ringing the bell, or anonymously responding to a “Dear Santa” letter, we need to remain mindful that criminals prey on our generosity and use it as an opportunity to defraud us. Now, more than ever, we are required to use caution and diligence to be sure that we are donating to charitable organizations worthy of our kindness.

Some of the common frauds used by these scam artists include:

  • Look-alike charities. They’ll often use names very similar to other legitimate organizations.
  • Sham causes. Fundraising schemes based on bogus tragic situations, such as memorials, terminal diseases, funerals, illness, etc.
  • Phishing scams. Fraudulent emails from Scammers purporting to be from reputable charities.
  • Collection scams. Telephone or door-to-door solicitors falsely pretending to be collecting “on behalf of” a reputable charity.
  • Social media scams. Phony messages usually relating to a made-up tragic situation are posted on social media sites, like Facebook.

To be sure you donate to worthy charities:

  • Investigate the organization before making a donation.  Visit The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.
  • Be skeptical of unsolicited emails requesting donations.
  • Ask for written information on the organization or how your donation will be used and use that information to do your own research to be sure they’re legitimate.
  • If sending a donation by U.S. Mail, pay by check to be sure it’s deposited by the real organization through the endorsement on the back of the check.
  • To see if a charity really is a non-profit organization able to collect authorized to receive tax deductible donations visit the IRS website.
  • Send your donations directly to the charitable organization rather than to the person collecting “on behalf of” that organization.
  • If solicited by telephone, never give out your personal or financial information, and check out the charity through Charity Navigator or GuideStar prior to making the donation.

Remember, the first line of defense starts with you! FraudAvengers urges its readers to be extra vigilant to confirm your donations are going to reputable and worthy organizations. Have a safe and happy holiday season.