Many people share the spirit of the holiday season through charitable giving. Unfortunately, scammers often try to take advantage of people’s generosity by creating fake but convincing causes for donations this time of year.
Here are some tips on how to spot fake charities so you can feel confident your gifts go where you intend.
Look for these red flags
Protect yourself by keeping up with common scammer tricks of the trade.
- Be skeptical about pleas for help on social media or crowdsourcing sites like GoFundMe. Sadly, scammers deceive people into sending money by using real stories of misfortune and tragedy, and even use victims’ pictures to look convincing.
- Watch out for links on social media or in emails. These can do more than divert your donation to a con artist. The links can install malware on your device and cause you long-term problems.
- Be leery of donating by text. While it may be fast and convenient, first make sure the number is listed on the charity’s website.
- Resist requests for cash, gift cards or wire transfers; these are difficult to track and signs of scams because they are largely untraceable.
- Be on high alert for any caller or website that asks for your Social Security Number, bank account number or birth date. Do not share that information unless you initiate the call.
- Pause if you’re being pressured to donate immediately. That’s a common practice by scammers.
- Be careful if a caller thanks you for your previous donation; it’s another common trick to make you think you already have a relationship.
- Be on guard against sound-alike charities. Scammers may change a word or even a few letters in the name of a well-known charitable organization in order to deceive you.
- Pay attention to web addresses. Most charities’ web addresses end in .org, not .com.
Research before you give
It’s natural to want to answer the call for help right away. Before you do, take a little time to research the group or organization you want to support. These charity watchdogs are a good place to start:
How to give wisely
In addition to doing your research, it’s a good idea to:
- Donate by credit card or check.
- Keep a record of all your donations.
- Check your credit statements and bank accounts to make sure you’re not being charged for recurring donations.
- Make sure you know who you’re giving to when you donate online to avoid go-between organizations or other fees.
There’s never a shortage of people and causes that need financial support. However, in today’s financial environment it’s wise to be careful about where you’re committing your money. If you have questions about making a donation securely, feel free to contact a Cinfed branch location for guidance.