How to Avoid Holiday Charity Scams

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The holiday season is a time when many people open their hearts and wallets to help others by donating to charitable organizations. It’s also a peak time for fraudsters posing as charities. To ensure your dollars benefit the non-profit of your choice rather than thieves, learn how to spot a charity scam.

What Is a Charity Scam?

A charity scam is a fraud scheme that claims to accept donations to help a specific cause, but all or most of the money goes to the person(s) perpetrating the scam.

Charity Scam Red Flags

Scammers use various tactics to pull at your heartstrings and empty your wallet. Some bad actors are more subtle than others, but many fake charities will:

  • Use similar names as well-known nonprofits
  • Only accept donations using cash, wire transfer, or gift cards
  • Pressure you to give right now
  • Impersonate a legitimate 501(c)(3) organization by setting up a look-a-like website or using their name and logo when sending solicitation emails

Remember that legitimate charities accept donations year-round. Scammers will try to convince you that the only time worth giving to an organization is today.

How to Protect Yourself from Charity Scams

  • Ask for the organization’s Employer Identification Number (EIN) so you can check their rating on Charity Navigator, a non-profit evaluator. If they refuse to provide this information, hang up.
  • Visit the websites of charity watchdogs, like BBB Wise Giving Analysis and Charity Watch, to see how much of the donation will be used for the stated purpose.
  • Confirm the charity’s tax-exemption status using the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search Tool.
  • Donate using a credit card to protect against fraudulent transactions. Review your account statements to ensure the organization did not set up an unauthorized recurring donation.
  • Avoid making donations in response to SMS text messages, phone calls, or email solicitations. Instead, visit the non-profit’s official website and navigate to their donation page.

These simple steps can help ensure that your thoughtful donation is used to support a cause close to your heart, not line the pockets of a scammer.

If you are suspicious of a charity or think you were the victim of a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

If your donation was made using your Call Federal account, we might be able to assist with recovering your funds. Contact us at 804-274-1200, between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.. You can also visit your local branch for assistance.

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