Avoiding charity scams - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Avoiding charity scams

Giving Tuesday (Source: BBBWiseGiving.com) Giving Tuesday (Source: BBBWiseGiving.com)

After days of shopping, there is a movement to encourage people to give back.  For the fifth year, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the United States has been designated as #GivingTuesday, a day to make donations to charity.

If you plan on giving to charities this holiday season, the Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau offer these tips to help you make the most of your charitable donations.

  • Donate to recognized charities with a history. Even if the charity is well-meaning, it may lack the infrastructure to provide much assistance. 
  • Be wary of charities with names that are similar to the names of well-known organizations. Some phony charities use names that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations to gain your trust.   
  • Give directly to the charity, not to paid solicitors who contact you on the charity's behalf. Some charities hire professional fund-raisers, who then keep a portion of the money they collect. That leaves less money for good works. Ask whether the person is a paid fund-raiser and, if so, what percentage of your donation goes to the charity. If you're not comfortable with the amount, you may consider donating to a different organization or sending your gift directly to the charity.       
  • Don't give out personal or financial information - including your Social Security number or credit card and bank account numbers - to anyone who solicits a contribution from you. Scam artists use this information to commit fraud against you.
  • Check out the charity before you donate. You can look it up at charity-rating sites, such as the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance at Give.org, www.charitynavigator.org, www.charitywatch.org, or www.guidestar.org.
  • Don't give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card. Write the official name of the charity on your check. You can contribute safely online through many official charity websites. Look for signs that the site is secure - such as a closed padlock on the browser's status bar - before you enter any personal information. When you are asked to provide payment information, the website URL should change from http to shttp or https, which indicates that the transaction is encrypted or secure.
  • Ask for identification and written information when you're approached in person. Written materials could include the name, address, and telephone number of the organization, and information about the charity's mission, how your donation will be used, and proof that your contribution is tax deductible. When in doubt, call the charity to make sure it is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name.

The Warning Signs of a Charity Scam

How can you tell whether someone you care about is the target of a charity scam - or whether you are yourself? 

The Federal Trade Commission suggests that donors should avoid any charity or fundraiser that:

  • refuses to provide written information about its identity, its mission, its costs, and how the donation will be used;
  • will not provide proof that a contribution is tax deductible;
  • uses a name that closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization;
  • thanks a potential donor for a pledge the person doesn't remember making;
  • asks a potential contributor for bank account or credit card information before the person has reviewed the organization's information and agreed to contribute;
  • uses high-pressure tactics to secure a donation before the potential donor has had a chance to make an informed decision about giving;
  • asks for donations in cash;
  • offers to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect the donation immediately;
  • guarantees sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution.

According to the Better Business Bureau, #GivingTuesday raised over $116 million dolalrs in online donations last year from over 700,000 donors.

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