During the holiday season many individuals are moved by compassion and generosity for those less fortunate. With the multiple heartaching disasters that have hit the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands this year — beginning with Hurricanes Harvey and Maria — and the wildfires still burning in California, many non-profit and emergency aid organizations are soliciting for donations.
Americans are noted for their kindness to those in need, but when we give to a charity, we are giving because we care and want to help — and we want to be sure our money actually gets to those who need it. But scammers try to take advantage of this giving season. They pretend to represent a charity, the Federal Trade Commission is warning. So before you make a donation, the FTC offers these tips to consider:
- Rule out anyone who asks you to send cash, pay with a gift card, or wire money.
- Confirm the exact name of the charity and do some research, especially when donating for the first time. Search for the name of the charity online — plus add “complaint” or “scam.” That’s one way to learn about a charity’s reputation.
- Give to charities you know and trust, with a proven track record. Before you give to any charity, check them out with the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
- Avoid charities that seem to pop up overnight in connection with a natural disaster or other tragic event.
- Don’t assume that pleas for help on crowdfunding sites or social media are legitimate. Real victims’ pictures and stories can easily be manipulated to con you into donating to the pockets of cybercriminals.
- Before you text to donate, confirm the number on the charity’s website.
- Never click on links or open attachments in emails, even if they appear to be from a charity. You could unknowingly install malware on your computer or be taken to a look-alike website run by scammers.
For more information, visit ftc.gov/charity. If you think you’ve spotted a charity scam, tell the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.