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Beware of scam charities this holiday season

  • Published
  • By John North, President/CEO
  • Miami Valley Better Business Bureau

DAYTON, Ohio – Although you may want to help charities in need, be cautious of those that are only trying to scam you into giving them money.

Scammers know people tend to be more generous during the holidays, making it the perfect time to target their victims. However, don’t let them stop you from donating. Just make your donations count by making sure they go to legitimate organizations.

Better Business Bureau offers these tips regarding charitable giving:

  • Check details on charity websites regarding the organization’s missions, programs and finances.

  • Donate directly to the organization. Be wary of unsolicited email, high-pressure tactics and heart-wrenching appeals.

  • Get the charity’s exact name. Thousands of charities have similar names and they can be easily confused. Scammers also operate as charities with sound-alike names.

  • Donate with your credit card because if the charity turns out to be fraudulent, your credit card company offers some protections.

  • Don’t be pressured to donate. If a charity is forcing you to make a decision to donate right away, it’s a red flag.

  • Don’t assume charity recommendations on social media are legitimate and have already been scrutinized.

  • Be wary of “lookalike websites” that try to impersonate charities. Verify the URL in your browser before donating.

  • Don’t enter any personal information on websites that aren’t secure. Look for “https” in the URL and the locked-padlock symbol.

  • Keep in mind: Scammers can spoof phone numbers to make them appear local.

  • Get a receipt for your donation.

Remember, charities need more than financial support. Consider giving the gift of your time by volunteering at the organization. You may also donate goods or services. Get a list of needed items to ensure you’re giving the help the organization needs.

Also, check to see what the organization’s donation policy is and what items it does or doesn’t accept. Organizations may not have the capacity to store items or accept used items.

Better Business Bureau evaluates charities against its “20 standards for charity accountability” program, which looks at their finances, governance, effectiveness and fundraising practices. Only after a charity meets all the standards will the bureau offer BBB accreditation and use of its seal.

Contact the Better Business Bureau by visiting www.bbb.org or calling 937-222-5825 or 800-776-5301 for lists of BBB-accredited charities and reports. For more information and help choosing where to apply your generous gifts, go to www.give.org, www.guidestar.org and www.charitynavigator.org.