Don’t let scammers take advantage of your kindness!
We all want to make the world a better place, and donating to a trusted charity is one way we can do so. However, scammers are looking to divert those charitable donations to line their own pockets.
It’s not always easy to spot a charity scam — scammers can be very clever at what they do — so take a moment before you donate to make sure your money is going where you want it to go. Learn how to recognize scams and fraudulent charities.
How it happens
Scammers will pose as a legitimate charity. Often they will use a name that is very similar to a real charity to try to trick you. They might use a current crisis or natural disaster as the reason you should give. They also may target frequently supported causes, like veterans’ charities.
Charity scams will use the same tactics as genuine charities to reach you: telemarketing, direct mail, email, and door-to-door solicitations. Scammers can change their area code on a phone call to look like they are local. They might even create a website that looks professional and legitimate. And in the age of GoFundMe campaigns, you need to be extra careful that the cause you are donating to is real.
What to look for
• Pressure to give right now. They want to get your money before you have a chance to learn more about them and see through their scam. A legitimate charity will accept and appreciate your gift whenever you choose to make it.
• Thanking you for a donation you don’t remember making. Especially if you give to a lot of charitable causes, it is understandable if you cannot immediately recall every nonprofit you’ve supported. Scammers will take advantage of this situation, claiming you’ve already made a donation to make you feel more comfortable about giving them money today.
• Asking for cash, gift cards, cryptocurrency, or a wire transfer. Scammers like these forms of payment because they are difficult to trace, and it can be impossible to get the money back later if you later learn about the scam.
• Guaranteeing sweepstakes winnings if you donate. This is illegal and a sure sign of a scam.
• Heavy on emotion, light on specifics. A legitimate charity should be able to tell you the ways your donation will be used. Scammers will often make a lot of sentimental and emotional claims but be vague about what your impact will be and whom you’ll actually help.
How to protect yourself
Don’t let anyone rush you into donating. It is not only OK to take your time, it is the smart thing to do when considering whether to donate to a charity.
Always do your research. Pay close attention to the charity’s name and web address to make sure they are not mimicking a well-known organization. Verify a charitable organization is real by using the Tax-Exempt Organization Search web page on the IRS website.
GoFundMe and similar crowdfunding platforms require extra vigilance on your part. Scammers have been known to use real photos and stories to pretend to be actual people needing help. It is safest to only give to campaigns where you or someone you trust knows the person and can verify the campaign is real.
Be careful how you donate. Do not send donations via cash, gift cards, cryptocurrency, or wire transfers. Credit cards and checks are safer options. And never give out personal or financial information like your bank account number or your Social Security number. Scammers can use that information to not only steal your money but your identity too.
Finally, don’t click on links in emails, Facebook, or Twitter fundraising messages. Scammers might be trying to install malware on your computer or phone. And don’t donate by text without confirming the number on the charity’s official website.
Pay attention after your donation. Keep a record of all of your donations and check your credit card and bank account regularly to ensure no charity has taken more than you intended to give or signed you up to make recurring monthly gifts you did not agree to.
See any red flags? Donate somewhere else. Whatever cause you want to support, there are probably several charities doing similar work. If anything about a charity makes you feel uneasy, look for a similar but more trustworthy nonprofit to donate your money to.
Heritage Bank is a community bank rooted in our Christian values. We want to make it easy for you to live your values, too. Have questions about scam and fraud prevention? Reach out to one of our bankers now.
Heritage Bank. Member FDIC.