Fake charities can arise any time of the year, especially around major natural disasters.
People have a natural tendency to help and assist others experiencing hardships because of an event. Unfortunately, scammers are keen on this and use natural disasters, times of war, and unforeseen circumstances as an opportunity to trick people into donating money to fraudsters.
By doing your research, you can protect yourself from falling victim to a charity or donation scam and ensure that funds are going to the people that need it.
If you plan on donating to any charity, organization, or effort, make sure to take the following precautions:
- Do your Research. Take time to research the company online and understand what your donation will specifically be used for. If you plan on donating to a specific charity, try searching their name plus ‘reviews,' ‘rating,’ ‘scam,’ etc. for additional information. By doing your research you can gain a better idea of what your donation will be used for.
- Consider using a third-party website. Several websites and search engines are devoted specifically to reviewing charities, how they operate their business, and how donations are specifically used.
- Review the charity’s 501(c)(3) status. A 501(c)(3) is recognized by the US government as a non-profit organization that is either a public charity or private foundation. Any charity or foundation you plan on donating to should have an Employer Identification Number (EIN) which minimally ensures that the organization registered with the US government for tax purposes. Search engines online will have EIN look-up capabilities for additional information
- Review how donations are made. Consider how the charity or organization collects donations. Does the charity request donations be wired to an individual's account? Do they request donations be sent as cryptocurrency, bought as gift cards, or cash that is mailed? If so, it is very likely it is a scam.
- Choose a trusted charity or foundation. Does this charity have a longstanding reputation? Have you heard of them before? Is it a newer charity that you cannot find a lot of information about? Research by looking into their goals, mission statements, and history to see if it is a charity you’d like to support. If you are having trouble finding any information about the charity, be cautious.
- Use the IRS Tax Exempt Organization search (https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/tax-exempt-organization-search). The legitimate IRS website includes an organization search tool that will help determine if your donation(s) are tax deductible.