We’ve entered the season of giving, when the holiday spirit beckons us to help our fellow people. It’s a wonderful thing to give when you have the ability to do so. Unfortunately, scammers are all too happy to take advantage of people who open their hearts. This time of year, as charity scams reach their peak, here’s what you can do to make sure you’re giving to people in need, and not to a criminal’s bottom line.
Never Give Over the Phone or By Email
It’s common for charities to reach out to past and potential donors through snail mail, email, calls, or text messages, which means fraudsters will be doing the same thing. When someone contacts you seeking donations, it’s impossible to determine if that person is actually working with a charity or not. Play it safe and don’t hand your credit card information over to strangers.
Don’t Give in to Pressure
Donations should come from the heart, and legitimate charities will always accept no for an answer. As the Better Business Bureau points out, “Responsible organizations will welcome your gift tomorrow as much as they do today.” If you meet someone out in public who claims to be collecting charity donations, or if you receive a request via email or phone that suggests there is a deadline for your donation, take it as a red flag and keep your checkbook shut.
Get a Second Opinion
If you aren’t certain if a charity is legitimate, look them up on Charity Navigator at charitynavigator.org. This service evaluates charities to help generous souls be certain their donations go to the right place. The rating system identifies “high concern” organizations suspected of fraud. Charity Navigator also ranks legitimate charities based on financial health, accountability, and transparency, so you’ll know how much of your donation is going to people in need. As a rule, if a charity spends more than 25 percent of donations on salaries or administrative costs, you may want to give to a different charity.
There are many amazing charities who do great work and benefit from the goodwill of donors. Keep these tips in mind so your donation ends up with a worthwhile charity rather than in a scammer’s pocket.