Beware of Charity Scammers
While natural disasters, such as Hurricane Dorian, bring out the best in people who want to help, unfortunately it also brings out charity scammers. People with good intentions are moved to want to help the victims of a disaster, while charity scammers are moved to take full advantage of the abundance of good will.
Charity scammers exploit disasters by posing as fake charities. Instead of collecting money to help disaster victims, they keep the money for themselves.
So – How Do They Do It?
In the aftermath of most disasters, charity scammers are hard at work sending out unsolicited emails, text messages, snail mail solicitations, social media advertisements and even come knocking at your door asking for donations.
You can never be sure whether the person contacting you is legitimate or not!
Charity scammers are also very adept at creating phony, but legitimate-looking websites that appear to be real charities. They choose names of similar sounding charities to fool you into thinking they are legit. Charity scammers will provide you with a link to their fake websites. These fake websites capture unsuspecting victims who innocently enter their personal info including their SS#, address, phone # and credit card info.
FOLLOW THESE IMPORTANT TIPS:
- Go directly to the charity yourself. You can find the address of a charity’s website and either mail them a check or go directly to the charity’s website (by typing in the website address yourself) and make your donation online.
- Look for the padlock symbol and the website address to start with https, not just http. The “s” stands for a secure website. Also, realize that most charity websites will end in “.org”, not “.com”. Be careful of making typos when entering web addresses too.
- Never, ever click on links in an email, no matter how legitimate the email looks! The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) is reminding everyone that malware purveyors frequently use natural disasters and breaking news stories to trick people into clicking on malicious links or opening up booby-trapped email attachments.
- Be careful of what you see on your ‘Caller ID’. Most phone numbers are “spoofed” to look like the call is coming from a charity, when in fact, it’s a scammer calling.
- Telemarketers who call you, representing a charity, receive a commission for each donation they receive. So only about half of your donation actually goes to help the charity. Besides, how can you be sure that the person calling you is from a legitimate charity? You can’t!
- To check out a charity, you should go to either charitynavigator.org or www.charitywatch.org Both websites help you determine if a charity is legitimate. If the charity is not on the list, then beware! You can also learn how much of the money a charity collects, actually goes to the people they are supposed to be helping.
- Always contribute by check or credit card to have a record of your donation. Never make a donation with cash, a pre-paid debit card, bank wire, or especially an iTunes or Amazon gift card.
- The IRS allows taxpayers to use their Tax Exempt Organization Search Tool to help find or verify qualified charities. Donations to these qualified charities may be tax-deductible.
- Contact any organization you’re considering, and ask for the charity’s address, phone number and financial records. Consider how much of your donation will go to the program you want to support, and how much will cover administrative costs. Legitimate groups will gladly provide information about their mission and how your donation will be used. If the charity you contact is unwilling to provide you with such information, be suspicious!
You can read a previous article I wrote about charity scams here.