It always feels good to live generously and give back to those who need help the most. Thousands of charities and organizations depend on the generosity of others, especially during the holiday season. Lurking in the shadows, though, are individuals looking to scam you out of your hard-earned donations. Here’s how you can stay ahead of fraudsters and watch out for charity scams:
1. Research, research, research.
The Better Business Bureau and IRS maintain a list of safe charities that you can thoroughly research before you donate. You can also visit organization websites to research their credentials, including their headquarters, boards of directors, and how funds are used. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and pay close attention to charities whose names are oddly similar to those of more well-known organizations.
2. Watch out for look-alike charities.
A look-alike charity is a person or group that will act as a legitimate or well-known charity by using their logo and name to steal your donations and personal information. When giving online, double-check the website’s URL (also known as a web address). Sometimes, fraudsters will use URLs with a slight variation of a reputable charity’s name. Not only will your donation go directly to the scammer, but they’ll also get access to your card number and personal information. Look for secure website connections (https://) and verify the web address with official sources.
3. Be suspicious of requests for specific payment methods.
If you’re asked to give cash immediately, pay in cryptocurrency, or wire money to a charity, recognize this as a major red flag and steer clear. Scammers try to get you to send money immediately or through these other payment methods so you can’t get your money back once it is sent. Reputable charities aren’t going to pressure you to donate on the spot, and they can typically accept checks and credit cards in addition to cash.
4. Set up account alerts.
It’s important to stay on top of your accounts and be on the lookout for suspicious transactions or activity. A great way to help you stay in the know is using automated account alerts. Sign up for Account Alerts in FAIRWINDS Online and receive account notifications (and peace of mind!) through your text or email.
5. Use caution when donating to crowdfunding sites.
Crowdfunding is used when people ask for donations of any amount online to support them and their cause. This can include anything from donating to help someone start a new charity or helping someone pay for their medical expenses. Anyone can create a crowdfunding campaign on popular donation platforms to have people from around the world donate to their individual cause.
If you’re able to verify a crowdfunding campaign because you have a direct or personal connection to the recipient, then making your donation is less risky. However, sometimes these donation requests are set up by individuals who are using the situation for their own monetary gain. Find a trustworthy organization to donate to, instead of giving directly to a person you don’t know.
By following these tips, you can continue to live and give generously with confidence, while keeping your personal and financial information secure.