These days, COVID-19 and nationwide race protests have done a lot to tug on people’s heart strings…and purse strings. Whatever your perspective may be, there is an organization out there that can promise it will fight for it, with your support.
In such emotional times, there’s another industry that has found ample opportunity to support its own cause: scamming. There are all kinds of charity scams out there that may make claims you like, but with no intention of following through once they have your money.
How can you verify that a charity is not just a scam in disguise? Try these things to make sure you’re not getting taken advantage of:
-Check the charity’s website
-Make sure they have a tax ID number
-See if they’re transparent about where donations go
-Get a receipt
Do an Online Search
You can find out a lot about a charity, and how people feel about it, with a general web search. When you look up a charity online, you should be able to find ample reviews of it. If the reviews are generally poor, it’s probably best to steer clear.
And if you don’t find much information about the charity, you may also reconsider making a donation. The lack of a web presence could mean that the charity is not real. (Of course, it could also just mean that the charity is new. So, more research would be warranted.)
Look up the individual representing the so-called charity. A focused people search of the person’s name could reveal that they are not who they say they are, or that they have a past history with fraud. Or it could prove that they’re telling the truth and, at least indirectly, that their charity really is a charity.
Look Through Their Website
These days, any legitimate charity should have a decent website that presents who they are and what they do. It doesn’t need to have a lot of dazzling bells and whistles. But it should still offer a professional picture of the charity and a fairly detailed explanation of what they do.
A sophisticated scammer could have the wherewithal to create a convincing website. But certain tells–bad grammar, an overly generic layout, etc.–should keep you suspicious of it being a charity scam.
Verify the Presence of a Nonprofit Tax ID Number
This is truly a charity scam’s fatal flaw. If a charity is legitimate, it will have a unique and verifiable tax ID number from the government.
And don’t stop just with the mere presence of a tax ID number on literature or a website. Take the time to look that number up to make sure that it isn’t a fake.
Get Information About How Donations are Distributed
This aspect can help you with your charity scam investigation. But it’s also about making sure that your money goes where you think it should. Question the charity on the details. Is your money going to actually buy masks for nurses? Or is it going to be funneled into marketing efforts? You should get to direct your donation where you want.
And if they don’t seem to know when you ask? Back off. Unless a scammer is really advanced, they probably won’t have a business model ready to share with you.
Always Request a Receipt
If an organization that appears to be legitimate turns out not to be, a paper trail is your best option for getting justice and, hopefully, your money back. With any donations you make, you should always get a receipt for tax time, anyway.
In challenging times it’s important to remember that, while charity scams may abound, many legitimate charities can pop up as well. So try not to approach your investigation with cynicism. All you’re doing is performing your due diligence, both to protect yourself and to make sure you’re supporting a truly worthy cause.
For more information about scams and other ways to keep yourself safe, be sure to check out the PeopleFinders blog.
Image attribution: Photo by Cozine – www.shutterstock.com