Whether it’s efforts to support women’s rights or gun control, fight climate change or help Ukrainian refugees, more Americans are giving to charity this year in response to global challenges.
However, there are as many of them Scammers are trying to make money to current environmental, social and geopolitical unrest.
“Anytime something is in the spotlight, there are bound to be people who take advantage of it,” said Kevin Scully, director of communications for Charity Navigator, which independently ranks and rates nonprofits.
“Bad actors posing as charities prey on the goodwill and generosity of donors who use well-known causes like cancer, veterans and local firefighters,” wrote Yael Fuchs, president of the National Association of State Charity Officials. “Using high-pressure tactics to pull on consumers’ heartstrings to get them to donate on the spot, these bad guys have no intention of giving the consumer time to research their claims before agreeing to donate.”
In the end, donors pay a high price: “The high volume of direct mail or telemarketing fees makes these scams profitable and can result in the loss of millions of dollars in charitable assets due to fraudulent charitable solicitations.”
To make sure your money ends up in the right hands, Scally offers the following tips to avoid charity scams:
- Never click on a link or attachment to make an online donation. “The donation form may look very legitimate, but it could be that people are trying to take advantage of people’s kindness,” he said. Instead of using the link provided, do your own search.
- Look at the help on the site, for example BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity navigator or CharityWatch and read online reviews. Then enter the charity’s URL yourself to verify yourself that you’re partnering with the right organization.
- Turn to organizations with a proven track record and a clearly defined mission. If it’s a personal plea for funds through a site like GoFundMe, keep donating to people or groups you know and can vouch for.
- Always pay with a credit card, which provides extra layers of protection, rather than a debit card that takes money directly from your checking account, and never donate in the form of gift cards or wire transfers.
- Check your accounts regularly for suspicious activity or unauthorized charges. Even vetted organizations may ask you to increase the amount or frequency of your donations without realizing it, another tactic that goes against best practices, Scully said. “It’s certainly something to look out for.”