5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Charity Scams

Donation can, pinecones, holly

Be mindful of your personal information when donating this holiday season!
Image: Shutterstock

The winter holidays are a great time for charitable giving. Unfortunately, in addition to the many worthwhile causes out there around this time of year, there are also plenty of scam artists looking to use your charitable instincts as a way to get your personal information—and your money. Here are some important things to keep in mind when giving this holiday season.

  • You may be getting an increased number of charity-related phone call solicitations during this time of year even if you’re on the Federal Do Not Call List (charities are exempt from laws regarding this list). It’s tough to be certain of who the person on the other end of the line is and whether or not they actually represent a legitimate charity, so you may be better off donating directly to a charitable organization’s website where you can be sure your personal information is protected.
  • Always do your homework to find out how legitimate a charity is. You can look them up over at http://www.charitynavigator.org to find out where your donation will actually be applied and what percentage goes toward upkeep costs versus actual charitable programming.
  • Never give out credit card information via text or email! This is a common way for scammers to get ahold of your personal information. If you’re not already signed on to the charity’s secure email communications—such as a mailing list you signed up for—treat any communication from someone claiming to be associated with caution.
  • Not all charitable donations are tax deductible. If this is something you’re interested in, be sure to use the Exempt Organizations Select Check tool at http://www.irs.gov.
  • Be wary of anyone contacting you claiming to be the victim of a disaster and needing help. It’s far more likely to be a scammer than someone who actually needs your help. This was evident during Hurricane Katrina, when the websites http://www.katrinahelp.com and http://www.katrinarelief.com went up even before Katrina had touched ground in an effort to get personal information and money from those looking to help. The FBI ultimately reported over 4000 bogus websites related to the disaster.

Giving to charities, especially when you’re inspired by the holiday season, is a great thing and certainly nothing you should be scared of doing! But it’s important to be mindful of where your personal information is going. Plenty of legitimate charities would love to hear from you this season, so take appropriate precautions, but also get out there and give!

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