Charity Scams — What You Need to Know and How to Protect Yourself

The coronavirus crisis has disrupted life throughout the world. The virus and its fallout have given rise to many opportunities, and charity scams are one of them. 

Generosity is powerful – people who think about other’s welfare find great happiness in doing so. Studies show that giving charity and taking care of others boost happiness and bring positivity in life.

But being generous also attracts scammers who target good-hearted people, capitalizing on their benevolence.  While you are trying to support people monetarily, scammers are out there preying on your donations. Some also have eyes on your personal information to impersonate a fake charity.

Before you put money into a charitable cause, make sure that it goes to a legitimate program – one that truly uses your money to benefit the needy. Also, if you want to lend money to someone in need, be cautious and well-informed on how to avoid getting scammed.

How Does a Charity Scam Work

Scammers target people using any charitable cause to trick them into giving money away, such as community support, disaster relief, animal rescue, medical research, and the list goes on. No matter where you contribute or what cause you support, the risk of getting scammed exists.

Here’s how scammers trick people:

  • Phishing attacks: fraudulent emails with a link to a fake website or sender’s email resembling a real charity.
  • Mobile applications
  • Text messages, robocalls, and telemarketing
  • Fake social media pages or profile, posts, and direct messages

So, how can you identify fake charities?

How to Identify Charity Scams

The following tips can help you identify charity scams and avoid them.

charity scam

1. Do the Necessary Research

Before giving away your money for a charity, take time to research to verify if the organization is legitimate. You can start by checking the watchdog lists of charitable organizations. Also, you can check your state or district’s charity regulator to verify the organization. Moreover, try to find the charity’s website on search engines and check for the URL as most non-profit’s web address ends with .org instead of .com.

2. Additional Key Search Terms

Search the charitable organizational name with additional keywords, such as complaints, scams, or reviews. If you find anything suspicious with the organization’s name, avoid giving any money.

3. Look Out for Warning Signs

If you receive a call or message from someone pressurizing you to donate immediately, there is a good chance that the charity is not legit. Real organizations will not pressure anyone to give money immediately. They will approach you and wait for you to make the contributions.

4. Be Wary of Payment Methods

If the representative from the organization asks for donations in cash or through a wire transfer or gift card, there is a high probability that it is a scam. Why? Because these payment methods are not easy to trace. The safest way is to donate using a credit card.

5. Take Caution with Emails

Be cautious when you receive emails from a charitable organization. Scammers prefer email to trick people by creating websites and email messages mimicking legitimate charities.

6. Protect Your Personal Information

Never provide any financial information to the person claiming from a charitable organization. No legitimate organization will ask for your bank account number, credit card details, or social security number on phone or through email. Also, be wary of charities that ask for money transfer overseas as it is the most common scam.

7. Thank You Emails

Scammers send thank you emails to convince people that they have donated previously, forcing them to do it again.

8. Be Careful on Social Media

Social media is a convenient way for organizations to communicate with the public Do not assume that a post or message on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube from an organization is legitimate just because your friend has liked or shared the cause. Take time to research before making any contributions.

9. Donate Directly

Never give money to an organization that approaches you through an email. Contact them directly to make any contributions and to learn about the goals and needs of the organizations.

What else can you do to protect yourself from scammers?

  • Keep a log of receipts of your donations,
  • Check your credit card statement to make sure you were not overcharged or signed up for a reoccurring donation unknowingly.

The best defense against scammers is to learn about how charity scams work, what to watch out and how to avoid them. Stay informed and support the charities that can make the most impact with your contributions.

Further Readings on Scams:

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      April 15, 2022

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