November 28, 2017 | Posted in:

Avoid Falling Victim to a Charity Scam

2017 has been a landmark year for natural disasters. In the wake of several catastrophes, such as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, legitimate relief organizations have been quick to help with temporary shelter, medical services, food, water and emotional support.


Unfortunately, scam artists are also eager to respond. They may contact you via phone calls, emails, social media and snail mail. They’ll try to exploit your honest desire to assist those in need by diverting your money and, if possible, stealing your identity. Don’t let them.


Before you contribute, follow these guidelines:


Do your research.

Check out the charity or not-for-profit organization independently. Some scam artists pose as disaster survivors or officials. They may use social media or websites that appear legitimate, using names that mimic genuine disaster relief organizations. If a website shows up overnight in the wake of a disaster, be especially wary. Research the organization with the Better Business Bureau, CharityWatch or Charity Navigator. Legitimate charities include the American Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services and Mercy Ships.


Never click on links in unsolicited emails.

Fraudsters often use hyperlinks or email attachments to introduce malware or viruses to your computer or mobile device. Double check the website domain of the sender’s email address and any URLs within the email (including hovering over a link to see the actual hyperlink). Only open attachments from known senders, including photo files that may contain viruses. The internet is full of disaster-related pictures. A con artist may simply copy a photo, infect it with a virus, then send it to intended victims. It’s also important to educate older individuals who may be more vulnerable to believing these phishing attempts.


Donate directly

After verifying the legitimacy of the organization, contribute by check, credit card or another way that provides documentation of the contribution. You’ll need that information if you’re ever audited by the IRS. Besides, it’s always prudent to send money directly instead of relying on others to make donations on your behalf. This can be especially timely when, instead of trusting a Facebook cause or GoFundMe, you choose an overall organization such as the Red Cross to donate to. Be wary of donating to any foreign bank accounts and, of course, never send cash.


Another red flag are “overnight” charities that will claim 100 percent of donations will assist victims. Legitimate organizations typically have a percentage for administrative and fundraising costs.

As always, guard your personal information with utmost care. Never give out bank account or credit card numbers to someone you do not know. Give generously, but remain cautious.

If you feel as though you may have unknowingly fallen victim to one of these bogus charities, consider Alloy Silverstein’s Identity Theft Defense solution.



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