Charity Scams

Specific tips you need to know to protect yourself from charity scams: Internet ScamBusters #97

NEW: Beware of Haiti Earthquake Scams

Today’s issue is on charity scams. Since it’s getting towards the end of the year and many people do their charitable contributions at this time of year, we thought it would be especially useful to help you avoid falling for a charity scam now. Let’s get right to it…

Charity Scams

Fortunately, many people like to give with an open heart to help others in need.

Unfortunately, that means we’ve created a climate that’s ripe for fake charity scams and scam artists. They know they can tug at our heartstrings — and rake in the cash.

Fake charity scams often set up quasi-legitimate agencies so that, at first glance, they look real; they may also name themselves something similar to other legitimate charities.

They may even carry ‘ID’ in the name of the charity, complete with a logo.

These scam artists use all of the standard methods to collect ‘donations’ for their charity scams — tables at the local mall, going door-to-door, email, and telemarketing.

All this makes charity scams harder to spot. However, here are 10 tips to help spot charity scams:

  1. BE WARY of every opportunity that presents itself — especially when it presents itself in the wake of some big disaster that gets lots of media attention.
  2. Ask for the name, address, and phone number of the charity — and whether or not it is registered. If the presenters claim that it is registered, get a registration number. The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance offers information about national charities; you can call 703-276-0100 or go to their website:==>

    If you’re trying to figure out whether or not some particular charity is worthy of support, check out this section of the site:


    They publish their standards for rating charities, and then rate over 600 different charities using these standards.

  3. Verify with the office of the charity that there is indeed a campaign going on, or that they’ve authorized the charity drive that you’re being invited to contribute to.
  4. Don’t ever donate cash if you can help it. Write a check to the charity — not to the person standing in front of you. This also helps you document the donation for your records and for your tax return. And don’t give out bank information!
  5. Ask what percentage of your donation goes directly to the cause. Legitimate charities will have ready answers because they are used to the question. 🙂
  6. Get a receipt with the name of the charity on it.
  7. Be especially cautious about getting a charity donation request by email. Most legitimate charities don’t use email for their solicitations. (Some legitimate charities will email people who have donated before — but never respond to requests where you’ve never donated.)
  8. Be especially wary about charities that claim to be raising funds for the local police or firefighters. Check with them first!
  9. Don’t give in to pressure or ‘guilt trips’ about ‘suggested donations’ or ‘requested minimum contributions.’ Once you’ve determined that the charity is legitimate and you’ve decided you want to contribute, simply give what you can and want to give — it will be appreciated.
  10. The best way we know of to avoid charity scams is to decide IN ADVANCE (while you’re doing your annual or monthly budget) which charities you’ll support and CONTACT THEM. Then you can gracefully turn anyone else down who comes your way with hat in hand.

For more tips on avoiding charities and charity scams, click here.

It’s great to be a giver — but give cautiously so you’re not enriching scammers or a questionable ‘charity.’


Time to close. See you next week.