Professional scammers are always trying to think of ways to swindle people out of their hard-earned money and often pose as charities to cover their bad intentions. Many of these scams are active throughout the year but are especially prevalent during the holiday season and the first part of the New Year when people are looking for last minute donations for tax purposes. Here are some tactics that scammers use and additional tips that can help keep you from becoming a victim of a donation scam.
How Donation Scams Work
When a scammer calls or emails you asking for money, he or she might use the name of a fake charity that sounds like it supports a good cause or has a similar sounding name to a real organization. According to SmartAsset.com, some of the fake charities to watch out for include: Kids Wish Network, Project Cure, and the Cancer Fund of America. Those all sound pretty convincing, right?
Scammers often ask potential victims to send money three ways:
- Gift card
- Wire or ACH transfer
Scammers ask to use one of these three payments methods because they are more difficult to trace. If anyone asks to receive a donation in any of these forms, cease communication immediately. The Federal Trade Commission recommends paying any charities by check or credit card for securer transactions.
Differentiating Between Real and Fake Charities
There are a few ways fraudsters will get you to take the bait on a donation scam:
- Fake websites
- Phishing emails
- Asking for quick payment
Some of the best con artists know how to design websites that look real. Most reputable charities have websites that end in .org instead of .com and they will also typically have a secured payment portal right on their site so the URL should start with https://. You can also cross check any questionable website by performing a search of the website’s address on a search engine to read reviews and other online resources to verify its authenticity.
As Charity Navigator explains, real charitable organizations will generally direct you to their websites if they want you to see more information. Scammers often include attachments in their emails hoping that you will download them, which will infect your computer with viruses that could compromise your online security. Unsolicited emails with attachments should be deleted immediately.
A scammer will likely try to get you emotionally involved in the supposed charitable cause to convince you to send them money. When asking how the money will be used specifically, you will likely be given a vague answer without any real details. Instead, the scammers will play to your emotions by giving a fake, sentimental story to seal the deal. Additionally, anyone who tries to rush you into donating could also be trying to steal from you. These scammers will sometimes say that the donation is needed right away to pay for urgent medical care or other time-sensitive expenses. This sense of urgency is intended to make you give your money faster without thinking through the details first.
Lastly, any agency that claims to offer you sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a donation should be reported to authorities right away. As Heartland Bank explains, not only is this practice a scam, it’s also illegal and a telltale sign that you’re dealing with swindlers.
By staying smart and heeding the right advice, you can stop yourself from giving money to fraudsters that claim to work for charity. These tips can help you stay ahead of the game and keep your money safely in your pockets.
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