Tips to Avoid Charity Scams

As people all over the world try to help survivors of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma with donations of food and water, clothes, shelter and money, we want to remind you to be aware of charity scams. Scammers will use any method to manipulate your generosity. 
Here are a few tips to keep in mind in the aftermath of the recent hurricanes:
  • Chose a trusted organization. Avoid new agencies that have been established for the specific crisis.  Be cautious of organizations with names similar to well-known charities.
  • Be on the lookout for phony emails, phone calls, social media accounts and crowdfunding requests. That includes email attachments from familiar contacts.
  • Evaluate the charity. If you are unsure about a particular organization, ask for the official name, phone number and website. Then you can verify the agency via reputable websites like the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator, etc. (see list below). A legitimate nonprofit will be happy to give you time to verify their mission.
  • Understanding crowdfunding requests. Some examples of crowdfunding websites are GoFundMe, YouCaring, Kickstarter, etc. Most of these sites do very little vetting in regards to donation requests. In some instances, scammers start donation requests for a “friend” or “family” that actually have nothing to do with that person. Unless you know the person personally and can verify that the funds will go to them, forgo that donation.
  • Avoid giving cash. Cash can be lost or stolen. A check or credit card record is helpful for tax purposes. DO NOT give out your credit card/bank information to a solicitor. If you write a check, make sure it’s made out to the organization NOT a person soliciting on behalf of the agency.
  • Ask questions. How will the money be spent? What percentage of donations go to the people and how much goes to overhead or fundraising? You may want to compare these costs between different nonprofits before making a decision. You also have the right to make your donation a “designated donation”, which means the organization can only use your donation for what you designate. Just make sure you notate that in writing.
You may report suspected fraud to The National Center of Disaster Fraud at 1-866-720-5721 or email to disaster@leo.gov. This line is staffed 24 hours a day.
Verification Websites for Nonprofits
 
Sources: Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator, TexasAttorneyGeneral.gov and the U.S. Dept. of Justice

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