‘Tis the Season…for SCAMS!

holiday scams

The holidays are a great time to think of others and to make charitable contributions to worthy causes and organizations. After the hustle and bustle of shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we now even have Giving Tuesday, which kicks off the holiday season of giving by encouraging us to remember to donate and give to charitable organizations.  Unfortunately, there are those out there that will also take the opportunity to take advantage of your generosity by fooling or tricking you into donating to what appears to be a worthy cause, only to steal your donation…more commonly known as a SCAM.

These thieves and crooks are very good at what they do.  But fear not, there are ways to protect yourself.  Take a few moments to read below some great info that we are sharing from our partners in crime prevention at the Federal Trade Commission.  You can find more info at their website.

Before Giving to a Charity

If you’re considering a request for a donation to a charity, do some research before you give. By finding out as much as you can about the charity, you can avoid fraudsters who try to take advantage of your generosity.  Here are some tips to help ensure that your contributions actually make it to their intended targets…

Signs of a Charity Scam

These days, charities and fundraisers (groups that solicit funds on behalf of organizations) use the telephone, face-to-face contact, email, the internet (including social networking sites), and mobile devices to solicit and obtain donations. Naturally, scammers use these same methods to take advantage of your goodwill. Regardless of how they reach you, avoid any charity or fundraiser that:

  • Refuses to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, costs, and how the donation will be used.
  • Won’t provide proof that a contribution is tax deductible.
  • Uses a name that closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization.
  • Thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making.
  • Uses high-pressure tactics like trying to get you to donate immediately, without giving you time to think about it and do your research.
  • Asks for donations in cash or asks you to wire money.
  • Offers to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect the donation immediately.
  • Guarantees sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution.  By law, you never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.

Charity Checklist

Take the following precautions to make sure your donation benefits the people and organizations you want to help.

  • Ask for detailed info about the charity (name, address, telephone number)
  • Get the EXACT name of the organization and do some research.
  • Call the charity.  Find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation.
  • Check if the charity is trustworthy by by contacting the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
  • Ask if the caller is a paid fundraiser.  If so, ask the name of the charity, the percentage of the donation that will go to the charity, and the percentage of the donation that will go to the fundraiser.
  • Keep a record of your donations.
  • Make an annual donation plan. You can better determine who to give to each year.
  • Know the difference between ‘tax exempt’ and ‘tax deductible’.  Tax exempt means the organization doesn’t have to pay taxes.  Tax deductible means you can deduct your contribution on your federal income tax return.
  • Never send cash donations.  It’s best to pay by check or credit card.
  • Never wire money to someone claiming to be a charity. Once it’s sent, you cannot get it back.
  • Do not provide your credit or check card number, bank account number or any other personal information until you’ve thoroughly researched the charity.
  • Be wary of charities that spring up suddenly in response to current events and natural disasters.