Tips For Avoiding Charity Scams
The holiday season is synonymous with giving. Whether giving gifts to family and friends or donating to a favorite charity, many people find some way to go the extra mile during the holidays in an effort to help the less fortunate.
But just as there are countless charities in need of support, there are an ever-growing number of scam artists that prey on the generosity of well-intentioned, unsuspecting donors. By becoming familiar with the tactics they commonly use, most scams are easily spotted and avoided.
Don’t call us, we’ll call you. Soliciting by telephone is a popular tool for scammers. With a reassuring voice and a good line, these skilled con artists make it difficult to distinguish them from legitimate solicitors. The best way to protect yourself from a telephone scam is to simply say “No thank you” and hang up. If you feel the charity deserves your attention, you can politely, but firmly, explain that you never contribute over the phone, but would be happy to receive information about the organization by mail. However, never provide any personal information over the phone.
Avoid online scams. The Internet is also a favorite tool used by unscrupulous people to separate you from your money. Sophisticated fraudulent sites mimic legitimate charities, but the financial information you provide is diverted to an unseen Web address. If you are not sure that a site is legitimate or you did not reach the site by entering its Web address yourself, it’s best to log off and re-enter the organization’s address on your browser. By going directly to the charity’s Web site, you can be sure that it is legitimate. There are also several Web sites that handle donations to multiple charitable organizations, such as Network for Good (www.networkforgood.org)
The get-away car. Car donation scams are big business. Even most legitimate vehicledonation programs are run by for-profit used car dealers/ fundraisers. In some cases, the charitable organization may receive as little as 10 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the car, with the lion’s share going to the dealer/fundraiser. In addition, this type of program is not limited to cars. Boats, real estate or just about any kind of donation that moves through a “fundraiser” may yield little benefit to the organization.
In addition to recognizing the more common con games, avoiding charity scams is a matter of following a few simple guidelines and using good old common sense.
Confirm that the organization actually exists and is indeed a charity.
Don’t give in to pressure from a pushy fundraiser. The harder they push, the more cautious you should be.
Representatives of legitimate charitable organizations will be happy to discuss their programs and finances.
Ask the caller to send information by mail or refer you to the organization’s Web site.
Check to make sure the organization is registered as a charity with state or federal agencies.
If a solicitor or fundraiser won’t take “No” for an answer, the answer should definitely be “No.”
For more information on individual charitable organizations, contact the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at www.bbb.org or visit the Charity Navigator Web site at www.charitynavigator.org.