‘Tis the season for gift giving, and a part of that sharing extends to charitable donations that give back to the community. The holiday season also is a time when scammers take advantage of the gift-giving spirit.
Scammers make phony phone calls—often deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity— disguised as legitimate charities’ phone numbers, or create charities in an attempt to steal money or personal information, according to the Federal Communications Comission.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Charity fraud rises during the holiday season, when individuals seek to make end-of-year tax-deductible gifts or are reminded of those less fortunate and wish to contribute to a good cause. Seasonal charity scams can pose greater difficulties in monitoring because of their widespread reach, limited duration and, when done over the Internet, minimal oversight.
Charity scam solicitations may come through cold calls, email campaigns, crowdfunding platforms, or fake social media accounts and websites. Perpetrators may divert some or all the funds for their personal use, and those most in need will never see the donations, according to the FBI.
The FCC provided the following tips to help those in the gift-giving spirit to avoid becoming victim to holiday charity scams:
To avoid becoming a victim of holiday charity scams:
- Donate to trusted, well-known charities. Beware of scammers who create fake charities. Always verify a charity's legitimacy through its official website. If you have doubts, you can check with Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
- Check with the National Association of State Charity Officials on whether charities must be registered in your state and, if so, whether the charities contacting you are registered.
- Verify all phone numbers for charities. If you need to contact a charity by phone or using text-to-donate, check the charity's official website to see if the number you have is legitimate.
- Do not open suspicious emails. If you receive a suspicious email requesting donations or other assistance, do not click on any links or open any attachments. Scammers regularly use email for phishing attacks and to spread malware.
- Verify information in online solicitations. Double-check any social media solicitation for charitable donations before you give. Crowd-funding websites often host individual requests for help, but they are not always vetted by the site or other sources to ensure legitimacy.
Other additional resources provide additional information to help avoid fraudsters this holiday season: