It’s that time of year where charities seek help from citizens in helping those in need. Although people can give anytime of the year, the holidays are the most generous time for charitable donations. However, before you open your wallet or checkbook, you should be wary.
The world is filled with criminal minds who will go to any length to steal – even if it means taking much needed funds from nonprofit organizations and people that desperately need it. That is why it is highly recommended by the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, that you be extremely cautious whenever you donate money. You want your donation dollars to benefit disadvantaged people and nonprofit charities, not criminals.
Therefore, the time to be cautious against these crooks is immediate. Always be alert when dealing with charities. For instance, if someone calls you to thank you for a donation you didn’t make, beware. This is a trick. The person isn’t a charity but instead a con artist who’s trying to pressure you into believing that you gave a donation to their nonexistent organization. They figure you’ll conclude that you either forgot your donation or don’t have a record of it. Thus, you would likely be willing to give another one, and the con artist knows this.
You should also be cautious against solicitors who are soliciting on behalf of nonprofit charities. There are charities that hire professional fundraisers to do telephone drives, mailings, and other soliciting matters. If a solicitor asks you for a donation, be alert and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask the solicitor if they’re a paid fundraiser, what charity they’re soliciting for, and what percentage of your charitable donation will go to the charity and the fundraiser. It’s your money that you’re generously giving away. So, ask questions without hesitation.
There are actions you can take to protect yourself against charity scams. For starters, call the charity you’re contemplating donating to. They could be unaware that there are individuals conning people out of money while using their name.
Contact the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance (www.bbb.org/charity) and GuideStar (www.guidestar.org) to do a charity check. Learn which charities can be trusted, and which ones can’t. Avoid charities that have similar sounding names to legitimate non profit organizations. These are phonies out to take your money.
Additionally, never give cash donations. It’s best to pay with a credit card for security and tax purposes.
If you make a donation online, be certain that the site is secure: a lock icon on the browser’s status bar or a URL that starts with “https.” The “s” stands for “secure.”
As with anything in life, always rely on your gut feeling. If a nonprofit organization doesn’t sound right to you, then chances are it would be a big mistake to donate to it. It’s likely a fraud or mismanages its charitable donations.
So be generous and make a donation to those in need. Yet, be smart and don’t fall prey to those who deceive.