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7 Steps to Spotting a Charity Scam Before You Donate

by Suzanne Kantra on September 01, 2022

Technology has made it easier than ever to give to charities in times of need. Fundraisers pop up in your Facebook Feed, you see options to text in your donation, you can donate while you shop, and, of course, you receive emails and calls. All of these donation methods are legitimate and used by reputable charities to receive funds. Unfortunately, these methods are also used by scammers. So go through this quick checklist before sending in your next donation.

1. Check out the organization online and perform a search with the charity’s name with the terms “scam” or “complaint.” Don't be fooled by charities that have similar names to well-known charities. According to the FTC, some of the worst offenders have been known to mimic the names of reputable nonprofits.

2. Look up the charity's rating on a rating site like Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch and Guide Star.

3. Verify that the organization is registered with your state charity regulator. In order to legally solicit donations, most states require charities to be registered.

4. Check to see if your donation will be tax deductible on the IRS's Tax Exempt Organization Search.

5. Don't ever pay by gift card or wire transfer. Send a check or use your credit card.

6. If you are using an online giving portal, a site that lets you donate to more than one charity, find out if the portal takes out a fee before sending the funds to the charity of your choice. check to see how long it will take the funds to reach your charity — often it can take 30 days or more. Ask about what happens to funds if they can't be sent to the charity of your choice. And find out if you can choose whether to share your contact information with the charity or other third parties. If it is hard to find out this information, the portal will not be in compliance with the FTC and you should go elsewhere to make your donation.

7. When you donate via text, the charity may not have a record of your donation, but you may be able to receive one from the company that facilitates your donation, like The Mobile Giving Foundation. Also, keep a copy of your phone bill for proof of your donation. And make sure you review your bill to ensure you've been charged the correct amount.

Updated on 9/1/2022 with text giving information

[Image credit: fraud alert concept, via BigStockPhoto]

For the past 20+ years, Techlicious founder Suzanne Kantra has been exploring and writing about the world’s most exciting and important science and technology issues. Prior to Techlicious, Suzanne was the Technology Editor for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and the Senior Technology Editor for Popular Science. Suzanne has been featured on CNN, CBS, and NBC.


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