Before Giving to a Charity
A lot of people have been giving donations to charities out of good intentions. If you want to do do your part and donate to charities as well, it is best to do some research first before shelling out any amount from your pocket. Not only will research help you decide which charity to support, but also, this prevents any fraudsters from taking advantage of you and your kindness.
There are a lot of ways from which you can make sure that your donations will truly reach the purpose you intend it for. You can check tc.gov/charityfraud for more information.
How to look out for Charity Scams
Fundraisers are groups that help gather funds for organizations. These fundraisers and charities often communicate using phone, face-to-face meetings, emails, internet (through social networking sites), and other mobile devices. Through these modes of communication, they gather donations from a wide network of people. It is also through these that scammers are able to do their acts.
There are ways for you to determine legitimate charities from fraudulent ones. If the representative(s) of the charity does any of the following below, it is best to immediately avoid communicating with them.
- Does not provide any detailed information about the identity of the charity, its mission, costs and how the donations will be used
- Unable to provide proof for tax deductions with the contributions
- The name closely resembles that of another known, reputable charity or organization.
- Thanks you for a pledge that you never did.
- Usually pressures you to donate immediately which prevents you to do research or to even think about the donation
- Asks for cash donations or for you to wire money
- Suggests and offers overnight delivery service to hasten collection of money
- Guarantees sweepstakes winnings as a trade for the donation/contribution you will give. This is directly against the law stating that one never has to give donations to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.
To make sure that you are giving contributions or donations to real people and organizations who will put the money to good use, you can:
- Ask the representative detailed information about their charity/organization (especially the name), address and contact numbers.
- Having the name provided by the representative, use it to do some research online. You can put together the name of the organization and words ‘complaint’ or ‘scam’. This way, you can learn more about the present reputation of the organization.
- Call the charity. You can ask them if they are aware of the solicitation being done, and if the representatives you have talked to are connected and authorized members/staff of their organization.
- You can also check if the charity or fundraiser is registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials.
- Contact the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch or Guidestar to check of the charity’s trustworthiness.
- For callers of paid fundraisers, be sure to ask the name of the charity they represent or are soliciting for, percentage of the donation that will actually go to the charity, how much of it will go to the cause and how much will go to the fundraiser.
- Remember to keep a record of your donations.
- Try to make an annual donation plan. This can help you determine which reputable charities are worth your contributions, along with the causes you truly support.
- No idea which organizations are eligible to receive tax deductible contributions? You can visit Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to find out.
- Remember: Tax exempt means that the organization does not need to pay taxes. Tax deductible, on the other hand, means that you can deduct your contribution on your federal income tax return.
- It is important to make sure that above all, NEVER send cash donations. You can pay by check made payable to the charity or by credit card, for security and tax purposes.
- Just like cash donations, wiring money is also a big NO. Scammers often prefer donations that come as cash, or as wired money since both of these cannot be taken back once sent.
- Do not give out your credit or check card number, bank account number or any personal information. Unless you are totally sure of the charity’s reputation, avoid giving out these personal details to protect yourself.
- There are a lot of charities that suddenly appear during calamities or natural disasters who act as liaisons to the affected people. Sometimes, even if they are legitimate, some of them lack the ability to get the donations to the people in need.
- There are also instances that groups come to you and request for donations that aim to help your local community organizations like firefighters and the police. It is best to ask your local agency to confirm if they are aware of these groups and if the organizations are getting any financial support.
- Donations done through texts usually show up as an extra charge on your mobile phone bill. For mobile phone providers that had premium text messages blocked, donation through text is disabled.
Charities and the Do Not Call Registry
The National Do Not Call Registry enables people to reduce calls coming from telemarketing companies. However, calls from charities and other political groups are exempted from this. To avoid getting calls from a fundraiser calling on behalf of a charity, you can simply ask the fundraiser to stop calling. Fundraisers who continue to call may be subject to fine.
Report Charity Scams
It is very important to immediately report cases of charity scams to alert and help authorities track and to stop this from happening again. If you think that you have been a victim of a charity scam, or it a fundraiser persisted calling you after politely informing him/her not to, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.