THE CONCERN: Con artists are experts at playing to our emotions. During the holidays as we are in our festive moods and giving spirits, scammers are in full swing hoping to take a piece of our pie! BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers these tips on what to watch out for in a charity scam.
HOW THE SCAM WORKS: Scammers can use charitable causes to tug on your heartstrings, so it is important to stay vigilant as you try to do good. Bad actors can try to hook you by misleadingly claiming that they will help particular individuals (like veterans or cancer patients), using robocalls deceitfully suggesting they represent a particular charity, or selling items with the false promise of benefiting a cause.
Donors also need to be on guard when responding to appeals by individuals on crowdfunding sites, particularly during the wake of a disaster.
While there are a number of ways to check out charitable organizations, it is difficult to vet so many individuals requesting help on crowdfunding sites. You may stumble across such online content while surfing the web or scrolling through your social media feed.
Sometimes though, fraudsters reach out to you directly via an email, social media direct messages, or even door-to-door campaigns. To help donors avoid disappointment or potential fraud, the first and most important step is to find out more about the charity before giving.
TIPS TO AVOID CHARITY SCAMS: Watch out for charity name confusion. Be alert to questionable groups seeking to confuse donors with names that sound similar to charities you know.
Resist pressure to give on the spot. Don’t give in to excessive pressure on the phone to make an immediate donation.
Find out more about the charity. The charity’s website provides access to information on its programs, board roster and finances. You can also verify government registration. About 40 of the 50 states in the U.S. require charities to register with the attorney general’s office or secretary of their state.
Do an online search to reveal potential scams. Search the person or charity in question along with the words “complaint” and “scam.” What you find could reveal a dishonest scheme. BBB Scam Tracker can help you learn from others’ experiences (BBB.org/ScamTracker).
Check for BBB charity accreditation. Visit charity reports on Give.org to verify if the organization meets the 20 BBB Standard for Charity Accountability (i.e., a BBB Accredited Charity.) There is no charge to charities for accreditation.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: For more smart giving tips, visit BBB Wise Giving Alliance’s website at Give.org and click For Donors.
If you’ve been the victim of a charity scam, please report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. By sharing your experience, you can help others avoid falling victim to similar scams.