Which Charities are Legitimate?

9 tips for donating to worthwhile charities, a useful tool for avoiding phishing scams, the Junk Fax Prevention Act, and more: Internet ScamBusters #82

Today we have another ‘Snippets’ issue for you. You’ll find suggestions on how to know if charities are on the up and up before you donate — as well as nine tips for making sure your money goes to worthy charities; a useful tool to avoid phishing scams; info on the ‘The Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2004’ (with a suggestion that you write your Member of Congress if you live in the US); as well as a humorous site to enjoy.

But first, a couple of important items:

First, we’ve started sending short notices to subscribers to let you know when each issue is posted online.

The reason we’re doing this is because so many subscribers who are not getting ScamBusters (because of the filters) requested we do this. Since so much of the information we discuss is scam-related, our newsletters are frequently captured by the filters.

Unfortunately, we have no good way of only sending these notices to some subscribers. However, we’re now aiming at sending the main issue out on Wednesdays, and the follow-up Friday morning, and labeling each one clearly.

For more advanced subscribers: If you regularly get the main issue and you want to file or delete the notices in your email program, we will (from now on) use the phrase ‘ScamBusters Now Online’ in the Subject Field of the short notice.

Second, we have a new promo we think many of our subscribers will find very useful.  It’s about improving your credit — free credit reports, credit cards, mortgages, other loans, bankruptcy, repairing your credit, identity theft and much more.

(Remember, it’s these promos that keep Internet ScamBusters free. And we only recommend products we review, highly recommend, and use ourselves.)

OK. Let’s get started…

How to Know if Charities are Legitimate

We recently got a question from a number of subscribers who wanted to know how they could be sure the charities that were soliciting them were on the up-and-up.

Although most charities are legitimate, there are quite a few charity scams. And you certainly don’t want to give your money to scammers!

Here are nine tips to ensure your money goes to worthy causes:

1. Do some research on the charity. If you’re trying to figure out whether or not some particular US charity is worthy of support, check out:

==> http://www.give.org/reports/index.asp

They publish their standards for rating charities, and then rate over hundreds of different charities using these standards.

2. Don’t give to charities where most of the money goes to executive salaries, administrative costs and fundraising. The website we just recommended, Give.org, presents a pie chart that shows the percentage of money going to programs vs. administration and fundraising.

3. Always find out the exact name of the charity before you send a check. Many fraudulent organizations select names that sound very similar to a legitimate charity.

4. Make sure the charity is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (again, for US subscribers). Otherwise, you won’t be able to deduct your contributions on income taxes.

5. Never donate if the caller uses high-pressure tactics or insists you donate now.

6. Always ignore phone calls, letters and emails telling you that you won money or a prize from a charity, unless you specifically entered a contest. These are almost always fraudulent.

7. Avoid charities that won’t send you written material before you donate because it’s ‘too costly.’ If an organization has something to hide, it’s very likely fraudulent.

8. Don’t give cash donations, especially to door-to-door solicitors. If you know the charity and want to contribute, never write a check made out to ‘cash.’ Always make sure the check is payable to the full name of the charity — that way it can be cancelled if you suspect fraud.

9. Never give your credit card number to door-to-door solicitors, or in response to a bulk email. In fact, don’t give your credit card number unless you are completely confident about the authenticity and good intentions of the charity. Otherwise, you may find yourself the victim of credit card fraud — or even worse — identity fraud.

Useful Tool for Avoiding Phishing Scams

SpoofStick is a very simple tool that shows you exactly what webpage (URL) you are currently on — not the ‘spoofed’ site that a scamster wants you to believe you’re visiting.

For example, you get an email asking you to visit eBay, and you click on the link and find you’re at http://www.a-long-domain-name-with-ebay-in-it-somewhere.com you know something is wrong.

SpoofStick is a toolbar for Internet Explorer and Firefox — and is very simple to use. In fact, you can even adjust the height of the toolbar — a nice touch. For more, visit:

==> http://www.realtimecredentials.com/spoofstick/

The Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2004

For those subscribers in the US:

In the spirit of naming laws exactly the opposite of what they do, the “Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2004,” HR 4600, passed out of committee last week.

This law would repeal the current ban on junk faxes. Instead, if this law passes, you’d be required to opt-out of each junk faxer’s list — individually.

Although far from perfect, we’ve noticed a very dramatic drop in junk faxes since the current law went into effect.

For those of you who don’t want to be inundated with more junk faxes, we suggest you write your Congressman or Congresswoman ASAP, since this bill may reach the floor of the House within the next several weeks.

If you’d like to know who your representative is — or you want to write to your representative online — visit:

==> http://www.house.gov/writerep/

Nigerian Spam-libs

This site turns the Nigerian fee scam into a popular party game — Adlibs.

To make it work best, include a huge number and unusual locations. A bit silly, but worth a chuckle…

Wishing you a scam-free week.