How to donate wisely and avoid charity scams

How to donate wisely and avoid charity scams

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Look up the ratings/report. Check how you pay. Watch for reputable names. Research the charity. How much goes to charity?

When you decide to support a cause you care about, you want your donation to count. Doing some research and planning your giving can help ensure your donations get where they’ll do good. Here are tips to help you plan your donation– and avoid scams. 

Do some research online

  • Looking for a charity to support? Search for a cause you care about – like “hurricane relief” or “homeless kids” – and phrases like “best charity” or “highly rated charity.”
  • When you consider giving to a specific charity, search its name plus “complaint,” “review,” “rating,” or “scam.”
  • Use these organizations to help you research charities.

Be careful how you pay

  • If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it. That’s how scammers ask you to pay.
  • To be safer, pay by credit card or check.
  • It’s a good practice to keep a record of all donations. And review your statements closely to make sure you’re only charged the amount you agreed to donate – and that you’re not signed up to make a recurring donation.
  • Before clicking on a link to donate online, make sure you know who is receiving your donation. Read Donating Through an Online Giving Portal for more information.

Keep scammers’ tricks in mind

  • Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. That’s something scammers do.
  • Some scammers try to trick you into paying them by thanking you for a donation that you never made.
  • Scammers can change caller ID to make a call look like it’s from a local area code.
  • Some scammers use names that sound a lot like the names of real charities. This is one reason it pays to do some research before giving.
  • Scammers make lots of vague and sentimental claims but give no specifics about how your donation will be used.
  • Bogus organizations may claim that your donation is tax-deductible when it is not.
  • Guaranteeing sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a donation is not only a scam, it’s illegal.

If you see any red flags, or if you’re not sure about how a charity will use your donation, consider giving to a different charity. There are many worthy organizations who will use your donation wisely.

Report scams to FTC.gov/complaint. Find your state charity regulator at nasconet.org and report to them, too. Share any information you have – like the name of the organization or fundraiser, phone number, and what the fundraiser said.

Organizations that can help you research charities

These organizations offer reports and ratings about how charitable organizations spend donations and how they conduct business:

The IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search tells you if your donation would be tax deductible.

You can find your state charity regulator at nasconet.org. Most states require the charity or its fundraiser to register to ask for donations.