Charity Scams: How to Spot Them in 7 Easy Steps

Fake charities take advantage of your generosity and compassion, as scammers try to steal your money by posing as a genuine organization.

The problem is twofold. Not only do these scams cost you money, but they also divert much needed donations away from legitimate charities and causes.

But that won’t stop scammers from trying to make a profit off situations like the pandemic. Luckily, their MO isn’t new, so you can use the predictability and protect yourself.

Here are 7 ways you can make sure your hard-earned money doesn’t reach the wrong people.

The charity organization is not registered

“Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding the coronavirus. They’re setting up websites to sell bogus products and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information.”

US Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Charity or not, all countries require some form of registration for organizations. What’s more, most countries need tax-exempt organizations to register to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions legally.

You can use sites like:

If you can’t find such verifiable information on your organization’s website, make sure to double-check its legitimacy.

They only have a social media presence

A good social media presence can increase a company’s visibility and raise awareness for different charity events.

But even for non-profit organizations with limited budgets, websites, public phone numbers, email addresses, or other means to contact a representative are a must.

Also, be wary of newly founded charity organizations that pop up after impactful events, like floods, cyclones, earthquakes, and bushfires. Sadly, a lot of times, they’re just a front for scammers.

You’re pressured to donate a certain amount

This is an immediate red flag and the easiest to pay attention to. Scammers will often try to emotionally manipulate you, aggressively pushing victims’ stories.

Legitimate charities accept donations at any time, no matter the sum you can offer. You should never feel pressured to donate.

You can only donate through gift cards or wire transfers

Long gone are the days of people going door to door for donations. Nowadays, plenty of payment processors work with charity organizations. But if the payment options are limited, pay attention.

There’s one thing you should know about gift cards and wire transfers. These methods are harder to trace. That’s why scammers prefer them.

Just know that legitimate charities generally accept a variety of payment methods.

You receive unsolicited links

If you receive fundraising messages with links through email or social media DMs, you’re right to be a bit suspicious.

Legitimate charities usually have a separate page with transparent information about how to donate and where. They don’t rely on spamming you.

And while people use crowdfunding sites for legitimate causes, scammers can hijack those as well. You can double-check crowdfunding initiatives by doing a reverse image search. Scammers generally use stock photos and relays from news sites to invent tear-jerking stories.

You’re asked for personal information to donate

Donating online should be no different than making an online purchase. This means that you should have the option to just enter your credit card details or use a payment provider like PayPal or Charities Aid Foundation checkbooks.

Don’t enter your personal details, especially on unsecured HTTP pages. This is a huge red flag and a common practice for identity theft.

There are misspellings in the URL

Misspellings are generally a sign of a phishing scam.

Scammers sometimes try to impersonate legitimate charity organizations by mimicking their websites. But they can’t replicate the web address, so they settle on a very close one.

So, make sure all the details check out before you donate.

If you see any red flags, or if you’re not sure about how an organization will use your donation, consider choosing a different charity.

 

Do you donate to charity? What’s your system for making sure you’re not being duped?

Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time, stay safe and secure!

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