The atmosphere of generosity during the holidays creates
golden opportunity for scam artists to siphon that goodwill for their own
“It is important to make certain your generosity is received
by those who need it most,” says Lawrence Loesch, vice president for
AlliedBarton Security Services and former New York Police Department officer.
He warns people to use their heads when their hearts are tugged by requests.
Some warnings include:
- Look-alike charities — Watch out for charities with names
similar to well-known organizations. Always investigate the organization before
making a donation. Look at their websites. Many non-profit web addresses
end in .org instead of .com.
- Phone scams — Be cautious of charities that contact you over
the phone. Ask the solicitor for the charity’s mailing address so you can send
them a check directly. When in doubt, call the charity yourself and ask them if
they’re aware of the solicitations being done in their name.
- Know your charity — Many more organizations push for
donations during the holidays. Research your charity before making the decision
to donate. If they offer you very little information, they may not be
legitimate. A legitimate charity will give you information describing its
mission, how donations are distributed and proof that your contribution is tax
- How is your donation used? How much of your money
actually goes to the charitable cause? Most charities are required to register
and file annual reports showing how donations are used. You can ask how to find
this information at your state or local consumer protection agency.
- Contribution collectors — Individuals who go door-to-door or
position themselves in high traffic areas should be carrying proper credentials
and identification. These individuals should be knowledgeable about the
organization and be able to provide you with informative materials about the
charity. Ask for written information and the solicitor’s identification to
validate the organization. For security and tax record purposes, it’s important
to pay by check when giving a contribution and write the charity’s official
name on the check.
- Mail scams — Holiday greetings may not be the only thing
crowding your mailbox. This time of year, watch for appeals for donations. If
you do not recognize the name of a particular charity, you can check out their
legitimacy as well as their efficiency with your money at the BBB Wise Giving
Alliance web site, www.give.org.
- E-mail scams — Be skeptical of e-mails seeking charitable
contributions. Many unsolicited messages received through email are
fraudulent. Additionally, a fraudulent charity e-mail may have an attachment,
offering you more information. Be aware, as many times these attachments
contain viruses. Avoid any charity e-mail or web site that requires you to enter
you social security number.
- Promised prizes — Be cautious of guaranteed sweepstakes
winnings in exchange for your contribution. Fraudulent sweepstake mailers
encourage consumers to return the apparent ‘winning’ entry along with a
donation to the charity named in the promotion. Be skeptical if a solicitor
thanks you for a contribution you don’t remember giving.
- Adamant demands — Refuse any high-pressure requests for your
contribution. Legitimate charities don’t require people to give at a moment’s
notice. An established charity will still be willing to accept your
donation, even if you take some time to research first.