Donating to charity is a great way to get involved with a cause that is close to your heart, but you should always do your homework before giving back. Don't fall victim to a charity scam and make sure your contributions are going where they are supposed to by doing a little research on before donating. Unfortunately, scammers often create fake charities as a way to collect money by exploiting people's desire to help those who need it most. However, you can avoid being scammed by one of these fraudulent charities, as long as you know what to look for.
Here are some common tactics used by charity scammers:
Being Secretive: Do not donate to any charity that refuses to give you detailed information about how your donation will be used. Also, ask for information about their mission, costs, and history. A legitimate charity will always be happy to share this information.
Cash-only Donations: A charity that is asking for cash only donations is a huge red flag. It's a sign of criminals who do not want to leave a paper trail. A reputable charity will accept donations in several forms and will provide you with proof of your donation as well.
High-pressure Sales: A legitimate charity will not use high-pressure sale tactics in order to collect donations. If a charity tries to get you to donate money quickly, before you have a chance to do your homework, then there is a good chance it's a scam. Another common method scammers use is to ask contributors to wire money or they will offer to collect the donation by courier. A real charity wants you to feel comfortable in your decision to donate, and will not pressure you into collecting contributions immediately.
Uses a Familiar Name: Charity scams will deviously use names that sound similar to notable and well-known charities. In one case, criminals used the name "Kids Wish Network" to fraudulently collect money by trying to associate themselves with the famous "Make a Wish Foundation". Make sure you are donating to the real-deal by doing some research on the charity you're considering giving to.
Checking Your Charity
Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to verify that the charity you are considering donating to is legitimate and responsible with their contributions.
Step 1: Do a quick google search of the charity in question. Type the charity's name into the search bar, along with words like "scam" and "complaint". You will quickly get an idea of what the charity is all about.
Step 2: Ask for all of the charity's basic information such as their name, address, telephone number, and email address, along with how your donations will be used. Charity scams are usually very reluctant to offer any of the information listed above.
Step 3: Contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and ask what the charity's rating is and if they have had any complaints. You can also check with online services such as Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, and GuideStar.
Step 4: Visit the website of the Internal Revenue Service to ensure that the organization your are considering donating to is allowed to accept tax-deductible contributions.
Report Suspicious Organizations
If you have noticed any of the tactics listed above and are concerned about an organization's legitimacy, report any activity to all of the necessary agencies such as your local police, the BBB, and the Federal Trade Commission.