Beware of Fraudulent Charity Scams
Are you the type of person who enjoys giving to those in need? You may be looking to make a donation to your favorite charity or allocate your money to specific cause that you feel passionate about. It’s good to be generous, as long as your generosity is going to a legitimate cause rather than a scammer. Unfortunately, there are con artists that prey on people’s willingness to give, especially during the holiday season. It’s important to know the signs of a potential charity scam and take the necessary steps to ensure your donation ends up in the right hands.
What are Charity Scams?
Charity scams use deception to steal money from people who believe they are donating to legitimate causes. They siphon money away from those in need and use it to line their own pockets. Scammers will often exploit natural disasters and other emergencies to play on a donor’s sympathy and take advantage of their generosity. If you are considering making a donation to a charity of your choosing, you need to know the signs of how to spot a potential scam so that you can keep yourself and your money secure.
Signs of Charity Scams
There are several signs to be on the lookout for that usually reveal whether a request for a donation is legitimate or not:
- Pressure to make a donation. Scammers will try to intimidate you by rushing you into making your donation right on the spot. When making any financial decision, it’s important to take your time and do your research. Don’t give into the demands to make your donation right away.
- Request to be paid in cash, cryptocurrency, and gift card or wire transfer. Scammers typically like using these forms of payment because they are harder to track. If you decide to write a check from your Robins Financial checking account, we can place a stop payment on the check in the event you were potentially scammed. It’s better to use payment methods that are easily trackable.
- Names that sound similar to real charities. You should be particularly wary of charities with names similar to nationally known organizations. Legitimate organizations will provide their Employee Identification Number (EIN) if requested. This can be used to verify their legitimacy.
- Sentimental pleas with few details. Often scammers will try to play on your emotions by setting up fake charities that tug on your heartstrings and persuade you to give. But, they won’t give you any specifics about how the money will be used. Unless you can verify the information is accurate, it’s better to play it safe and not give.
- Guaranteed winnings in exchange for a donation. In some cases, scammers will offer donors a chance to win a prize/sweepstakes if they make a donation to their fake charity. It is illegal to promise winning in exchange for a donation. If you run into this type of charity scam, report it immediately.
How to Protect Yourself
Knowing how to protect yourself from potential charity scams can greatly reduce the chances of you becoming a victim of fraud. Keep these key tips in mind when you are deciding how to give your donation:
- Ask the right questions. It’s your money on the line, so don’t be intimidated about asking questions to make sure your donation is going where it’s supposed to. Ask questions about the name of the organization, its web address and mailing address that can be verified. Ask for the organizations EIN so you can verify that they are who they say they are as well as their tax-exempt status. Ask about the organization’s mission or goals. You can even ask how much of your donation will be going to a cause that you support. This information is important and will likely help you weed out the fake charities from the real ones.
- Research, research, research! In case we haven’t said it enough, research is your best friend. Don’t just accept the word of the person or organization reaching out to you for donations. Research the name of the organization as well as reviews to be sure you’re dealing with the correct people. You can get reports on charities and their ratings from organizations such as Charity Navigator and CharityWatch.
- Don’t share your personal information. If asked, don’t provide your personal information such as your Social Security Number, date of birth, or banking account information to anyone asking for donations. Even if the call, email, or text you receive appears to be from a legitimate organization, never share this information with someone you don’t know or trust.
- Document your donations. You can ask for a receipt for your donation to hang onto if you plan to claim a tax deduction for that donation. Keeping your receipt will also help prove that you completed your donation in cases where you may be contacted by an organization claiming that you didn’t follow through on your pledge.
It’s important to always be on the lookout for potential scammers looking to steal your information or your money. Don’t let your act of kindness be taken advantage of this holiday season. For more information on how to protect yourself and your accounts, visit our Security and Fraud page on our website. You can also learn about more potential scams you may face by tuning into our Scams and Fraud playlist on YouTube.
At Robins Financial Credit Union, our mission is to enhance the financial well-being of our members and community. We honor this commitment by providing educational content to help you make the most of your finances. Read our other blog articles to help you gain the financial knowledge you need to succeed.