I don’t know about you, but it seems to me every time I turn on the television, there is news about a new disaster somewhere in the world. Thankfully, many people are generous about opening their hearts and their wallets to aid in the relief and recovery efforts at home and in foreign lands.
However, there are also many unscrupulous people who prey upon those wanting to help in a time of crisis. These crooks, unfortunately, often get most active and aggressive immediately after tragedy strikes.
I’ve compiled a list charity fraud prevention tips from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Trade Commission and lookstoogoodtobetrue.com. While many of these tips are common sense and you’ve seen them a hundred times, there are a few guidelines that may be new to you. So, here we go:
Do not be pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use such tactics.
Beware of organizations with copy-cat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.
Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by credit card or write a check directly to the charity. Do not make checks payable to individuals.
Be wary of charities that spring up overnight in connection with current events or natural disasters. They may make a compelling case for your money, but as a practical matter, they probably don’t have the infrastructure to get the donations to the affected areas or people.
Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services. Most legitimate charities websites end in .org rather than .com.
Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as members of charitable organizations or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.
Trust your gut — and check your records if you have any doubt about whether you’ve made a pledge or a contribution. Callers may try to trick you by thanking you for a pledge you didn’t make. If you don’t remember making the donation or don’t have a record of your pledge, resist the pressure to give.
Be wary of charities offering to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect your donation immediately.
Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages because they may contain computer viruses.
Rather than follow a purported link to a website, verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by utilizing various Internet-based resources that may assist in confirming the group’s existence and its nonprofit status.
Ask for written information about the charity, including the name, address, and telephone number. A legitimate charity or fundraiser will send you information about the charity’s mission, how your donation will be used, and proof that your contribution is tax deductible.
Call the charity. Find out if the organization is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. If not, you may be dealing with a scam artist.
Know the difference between “tax exempt” and “tax deductible.” Tax exempt means the organization doesn’t have to pay taxes. Tax deductible means you can deduct your contribution on your federal income tax return. Even if an organization is tax exempt, your contribution may not be tax deductible. If a tax deduction is important to you, ask for a receipt showing the amount of your contribution and stating that it is tax deductible.
Look twice at organizations that use meaningless terms to suggest they are tax exempt charities. For example, the fact that an organization has a “tax I.D. number” doesn’t mean it is a charity; every nonprofit and for-profit organization must have a tax I.D. number. And an invoice that tells you to “keep this receipt for your records” doesn’t mean that your donation is tax deductible or that the organization is tax exempt.
For additional information you can visit these websites as well.