While the holidays are a time when many people look to donate to charities, it is also when scammers are looking to receive by taking advantage of their kindness.
With so many people out of work and in need, it’s extremely important that you maximize the impact your holiday donations have by avoiding the common giving mistakes. A smart donor takes a hard look at a charity’s programs, finances and governance before making a donation. While almost all charities have the best of intentions, not all organizations meet standards or are well managed.
Fraudulent charities use valid-sounding names and employ telemarketing, direct mail and e-mail to solicit donations. Many scam artists use specific words, such as police, firefighter, veteran or children in their titles.
Your BBB wants to offer you the following tips on how to avoid charity scams and give wisely this holiday season.
- If you receive a call from an organization and are being pressured into donating, it is okay to hang up. Reputable charity organization representatives do not pressure donors into giving anything.
- If you receive a thank you for a pledge that you didn’t make, be suspicious. If you do not recall making any donations, resist the current solicitation.
- Avoid charities that offer to send a courier to receive your money.
- Be aware of similar sounding names. Some phony charities use names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate organizations. If you notice a small difference from the name of the charity you intend to deal with, call the organization you know to check it out.
- There is a difference between “tax exempt” and “tax–deductible”. Tax exempt means the organization doesn’t have to pay taxes. Tax deductible means you can deduct your contribution on your federal income tax return.
- Always ask for the charity’s name, address and phone number and some documentation on its programs
Some charities hire professional fundraisers for large-scale mailings, telephone drives, and other solicitations rather than use their own staff or volunteers, and then use a portion of the donations to pay the fundraiser’s fees.
- Inquire if the person contacting you is a professional fundraiser and what percentage of your donation will go to paying fundraising costs.
- Avoid giving cash donations and always request documentation of what you have donated.
- Call the charity the person is ‘representing’ and inquire if they are currently soliciting donations and if the caller is in fact a representative of theirs.
- Donors can check out BBB Wise Giving Alliance evaluations on national soliciting charities for free at your BBB.