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Sharing your blessings through charity is a wonderful way to give back. Unfortunately, though, scammers often hijack the kindness of charity-givers to get at their money and their information. Here’s what you need to know about charity scams.

How the scams play out

In a charity scam, a scammer or scam ring targets victims via phone call, advertising online or sending out mass emails. They pretend to represent a well-known charity or popular cause. They’ll ask the target to make a donation, and sometimes ask that they share personally identifiable information. Sadly, though, instead of these funds going to help a charity, they go into the scammer’s pockets. 

Red flags

Look out for these red flags to help you identify a charity scam:

  • You’re asked to share personal information before you can make a donation.
  • You’re pressured into making a donation now.
  • When asked how your donation will be used, you get vague responses.
  • An organization with a name closely resembling a well-known charity asks for a donation from you.
  • An alleged charity will only accept donations by prepaid debit card or gift card.

Protect yourself

Follow these basic rules for giving safely:

  • Give to established charities you know and trust. 
  • When donating to a new charity, verify its authenticity on a charity-vetting site, like Charity Navigator.
  • Never click on embedded links or open email attachments coming from an unverified contact. 
  • Directly contact the charity you wish to donate to on your own.
  • Check the URL of the charity’s website for accurate spelling.
  • When making a donation by phone, visit the charity’s website to ensure you have the correct number.
  • Don’t share personally identifiable information with an unverified contact. 
  • If you’re using text-to-donate, verify the number with the charity first.
  • Make your donation with a credit card for strongest purchase protection.

If you’ve been targeted

If you believe you’ve been targeted by a charity scam, you can help law enforcement agencies catch the scammers. First, report the scam to the FBI at tips.fbi.govNext, alert the FTC at FTC.gov. Finally, if the scam involves financial aid for a recent natural disaster, report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud.

Follow the tips in this guide to help ensure you’re always giving safely.

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a charity scam? Tell us about it in the comments. 

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