It seems like we're always being asked to donate to one good cause or another. We see TV ads featuring sad animals and sick children. Donation requests are everywhere on social media. When a natural disaster or some other calamity hits, these calls for assistance increase.
Most of us want to help worthy causes, even if we can only spare a little money. However, we also want to make sure that we're giving to an organization that will use the money appropriately and not spend a large percentage of it on "overhead costs" and executive salaries. We certainly don't want to fall victim to a scam.
If you're considering donating money to a organization you've never heard of or don't know much about, it's essential to do some research. That's easy with sites like Charity Navigator that provide ratings and information like how much the leaders of the organization are compensated. You can also do a quick Google search of the charity name and "scam" or "complaint."
Reputable organizations will let you make your donation by credit card or check. You should be suspicious of any group that wants your donation in cash (unless it's a few dollars in a Salvation Army bucket or something similar) or asks you to wire money or pay by gift card.
Here are some tricks that scammers use to get money that people think they're giving to a legitimate charity:
- They use a name that sounds like a well-known organization to trick people in to giving money.
- They use a local area code on their caller ID, so people think they're calling from a local organization.
- They can't provide any detailed information on what their group actually does.
- They guarantee some type of prize in exchange for a donation. (That's actually illegal.)
If you believe you've been the victim of a charity scam, there's no reason to be embarrassed. These scammers are often smart, and many people are taken in by them. You should give all of the information you have to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on their website FTC.gov/complaint and contact the appropriate state agency. If you've lost a considerable amount of money, it's wise to also contact an attorney and find out what your legal options are.