This is the season of goodwill. Unfortunately, there are those who use this time to steal in the name of charity. Before reaching into your pocket, you should know that some scammers set up fake organizations to take advantage of the public’s generosity, especially during the holidays.
There are things you can do to protect yourself and to remind elderly family members to be vigilant.
Follow these tips to help you detect common charity scam tactics:
Check out the charity with your state consumer protection office or the Better Business Bureau before you give.
Verify the name. Fake charities often choose names that are similar to well established charities or use keywords that elicit sympathy, such as “children,” “cancer,” or “disaster relief.”
Don’t give in to high-pressure tactics such as urging you to donate immediately.
Don’t assume that you can get a tax deduction for donating to an organization. Use the IRS’s database of 501(c)3 organizations to find out if it has this status.
Don’t send cash. Pay with a check or credit card.
Report Charity Scams
Your state consumer protection office can accept and investigate consumer complaints.
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). While the FTC does not resolve individual matters, it tracks charity fraud claims and sues companies on the behalf of consumers.
If the suspected fraud is related to a natural disaster, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud.
Although the “Do Not Call” Registry doesn’t apply to charities, you can ask an organization not to contact you again.
There are quite a few good websites that can help you navigate legitimate charities and those to avoid.