The holiday season is a time for giving. We often give to our families, our friends, and to strangers in need.
A flyer in the mail, a phone call, a personalized email — everyone receives requests for donations in one form or another. Many legitimate charities use telemarketing, direct mail, email and online ads to ask for contributions.
Unfortunately, scam artists also use these techniques to pocket your money. If someone asks for a donation, take your time and familiarize yourself with the charity:
- Ask for the charity’s name, address, and phone number, and written information about its programs.
- Ask whether the person contacting you is a professional fundraiser and how much of your contribution will go to fundraising costs.
- Check the history of the organization with the office that regulates charities in your state. For a list of state offices, visit the National Association of State Charity Officials.
You should also know the warning signs of a scam:
- High pressure pitches. Reject them: It’s okay to hang up.
- A thank you for a pledge you don't remember making. Be skeptical; scam artists will lie to get your money.
- Requests for cash. Avoid giving cash donations.
- Charities that offer to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect your money.
- Charities that guarantee sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution.
- Charities that spring up overnight, especially those that involve current events like natural disasters, or those that claim to be for police officers, veterans, or firefighters. They probably don't have the infrastructure to get your donations to the affected area or people.
Seniors are especially popular targets for scam artists. If you have seniors in your family, help them understand how to spot a scammer early, and what to do.
Sharing what you have with people who really need it is truly a generous, kind-hearted thing to do. Just make sure they are really getting what you give.
(Limited source: United States Federal Trade Commission, www.ftc.gov)