How To Avoid Charity Scams This Holiday Season
It’s good to give. And, contrary to popular belief, Millennials like to give, but they give in their own way, which is digitally, be it via crowdfunding platforms or causes they can donate money to online.
Unsurprisingly, December is the most popular month for charitable giving. “Out of a total $23 billion in charitable donations made in 2016, nearly one in five came in December alone, making it the largest giving month of the year, according to Blackbaud’s 2016 Charitable Giving Report,” reported 7KTVB. But this is also the time of year that scammers hit the net hard, attempting take advantage of these good deeds, which means you need to be on the lookout for red flags when receiving solicitations.
First things first, always make sure to check out the organization in question to ensure it’s the actual charity you want to give to, as some scammers create fake charities use familiar sounding names. “I would be careful not to give money to a charity that sounds like the one you want to give to,” noted Art Taylor, president/CEO of BBB’s Give.org, a charity evaluator that helps verify the trustworthiness of charities.”There Are over 1.3 million organizations out there and many have names that sound alike. So you need to be very careful.”
You should also be wary of unsolicited requests. “Most charities will not send you unsolicited emails unless you have had a past relationship with them. If you are getting an email from a charity you have never heard of I would steer clear of them,” advised Taylor. The same goes for telemarketers calling you at home trying to get you to make a charitable donation. “Anytime a group calls you at home and solicits you, for me it’s a disqualifying thing. That is kind of a bad signal,” said Thomas Tighe, CEO of humanitarian aid organization Direct Relief.
Getting a hard sell is another major red flag. “If the person asking you to donate is leaning on you hard, rushing the donation process or threatening you in some way — can you say, ‘Red flags’?” reported 7KTVB. “Similarly, if the asker sounds like he or she is in a rush to receive the funds — offering, for instance, to send a person to collect your donation as soon as possible or advising you to wire the cash immediately — once again, you may be looking at a charity scam.” As Tighe explained, “You shouldn’t be made to feel rushed into donating – a reputable organization will understand if you need a few days to decide and do some research on the charity in question.”
If the so-called charity you come across only accepts cash, that’s another sign something is amiss. “There is virtually no legitimate reason you would be restricted to making a donation in cash only, the FTC says. Even if a charity is asking for donations face-to-face, you can still write a check. If an organization contacts you via phone or email but says you can only make a donation in cash, this may be another scam,” 7KTVB reported.
When it comes to researching a charity you can use online evaluators like Charity Navigator or Guidestar.org. You can also do a search via Google and the Better Business Bureau for information on the charity, suggested Sheila L. Thorne, president/CEO of the Multicultural Healthcare Marketing Group, who has served on the board of numerous not-for-profits. “Be an informed giver. When searching, also take note of the executive staff of the organization. Look to see if there has been frequent turnover in the executive ranks, especially in the position of executive director. If there has been, this is not a very stable organization and it might be iffy to donate money to.”
As contradictory as it sounds, try to think with your head when it comes to donating this season. “You can give from your heart, but don’t let your emotions rule your giving. You have to be an educated giver. There are many scams that will play on your emotions–especially online scams–and take your money,” explained Thorne.
Another pointer is to give to organizations that hold significance for you rather than random groups and movements. “Focus on a charity that focuses on an area that is of interest to you,” Taylor said. “Think about the things that matter most to you and go ahead and find a charity that does that work.” Thorne agreed, adding, “I give to certain organizations. My dad died of cancer, so I tend to give to cancer charities.”