There are times in which generosity takes over you and makes you want to give something to those in need. All around the world you can find thousands of organizations, programs, foundations, among many others that will very gladly accept different types of donations. Some might want (or need) clothes, food, and the most common: money. This money will be used to satisfy whatever need they could have (whether it is related to alimentation, infrastructure, and so on). The problem now arises when people, pretending to be representatives from an organization, try to steal that money that was intended to go to a good cause. These are called “charity frauds” or “charity scams”.
Fraudsters will contact you and ask for a donation (relying on your goodwill) allegedly to help people in need. They will assure they represent an organization or foundation, or they will claim to be a hired fundraiser. Often, they could be misusing the name of a well-known organization, or using a name that closely resembles one. This is when you have to be more cautious.
“All around the world you can find thousands of organizations, programs, foundations, among many others that will very gladly accept different types of donations. Some might want (or need) clothes, food, and the most common: money”
Fraudsters will also usually take advantage of delicate situations such as natural or man-made disasters to ask for donations. Since they cause shock, people might be prone to help without realizing it is a trap. Be cautious if they start to collect donations right after the event occurred, because real organizations will take their time to arrange everything so they can manage donations accordingly.
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Another common way fraudsters have used to perform their scams is by sending email in which there is a letter saying that the sender chose you and wants you to take money out of his or her bank accounts abroad, in order to give it away to foundations (usually medical, since they claim to have a disease or terminal condition). They will try to convince you by saying that you will get a percentage of that money as a form of saying “thank you” for doing the favor.
Therefore, if you think you are being scammed by a fake foundation, there are many resources you can check to be safe. Confirm if the charity is trustworthy by contacting the Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator and Charity Watch, or GuideStar. All of them will help you clarify any doubt you may have. And if you are already a victim, you can make an official complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
Always Be Attentive
What can you do to avoid charity frauds?
- First of all, ask the representatives for their identification card so you can be sure (to a certain extent) that they are legit.
- Ask for information about the charity: name, address, telephone number, webpage, etc.
- Ask to what organization, department or program is the donation going.
- It is not advisable to donate in cash for security and tax purposes; once cash is gone, it is virtually impossible to get it back. Better do it by check — made payable to the charity — or by credit card.
- Ask your local agency if they are actually asking for donations in case you receive a request that claims to help police or firefighters departments.
- Avoid fundraisers that use high-pressure tactics to get you to donate at the moment.
- Ask if the contribution is tax deductible and/or tax exempt.
- Be skeptical if you are asked for your credit card number, bank account number or any other personal information.
- Do not click on suspicious links sent in a spam email.
- Go directly to the organization and donate there to avoid any fraud.
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