By Coach Fin
There’s never a shortage of people and causes that need financial support. The far-reaching economic effects of the pandemic leave even more people in need this year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that of the 10.7 million unemployed Americans last month, nearly 4 million people had been out of work for 27 weeks or longer.
If you were fortunate to continue working this year, you may be looking for ways to help. Unfortunately, scammers are ready to take advantage of your charitable nature. Here are some tips on how to spot fake charities so you can feel confident your gifts go where you intend.
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:
If you don’t find the charity you’re looking for, try searching online for the charity name followed by “complaints,” “scam” or “ratings” to see what turns up.
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.
- Be leery of donating by text. If you want to do that, 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.
- 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 right now. 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.
- Keep your eyes and ears peeled for sound-alike charities.
- Pay attention to web addresses. Most charities’ web addresses end in .org, not .com.
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.
Where to report charity fraud
If you think you’ve been a victim of charity fraud, here’s where you can report it:
Looking for reputable local charities?
If you’re looking for ways to make local (and legitimate) impact, here some reputable organizations that work in our community:
Visit GreatNonprofits to find reviews on local charities by neighborhood or by your area of interest.
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