Tales From Utah Valley: Give without getting scammed
It’s the giving time of year when people often share their generosity with others. Last week, I wrote about a few ways we can help others right here in Utah Valley. In addition to these opportunities, there are a myriad of worthy causes, especially during the holidays. But, unfortunately, along with all worthy causes come scams in disguise.
We all want to make sure our hard-earned money is going to people who really need it. Research and planning can go a long way to ensure we are assisting those who actually need the help. Here are some tips for donating to charities without being cheated.
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Advice website, doing research online is one of the best ways to determine if your donations are going to an actual cause. When you’re considering giving to a particular charity, it is recommended that you search online for its name plus the words “reviews,” “scam” or “complaints.” Additionally, organizations such as the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch and Candid.org offer helpful information about charities.
Also, be careful in how you transfer the money for donations. If someone wants donations in provided in cash, as gift cards or through wiring money, it is likely a scam. To be safe, pay by credit card or check, according to the FTC. It’s also wise to keep records of all donations and match these up with financial records to ensure the amounts are the same and that you didn’t inadvertently sign up for a recurring donation. Before clicking an online link to donate, make sure you know who is receiving your donation.
Be aware of scammers’ common tricks. Scammers try to rush people into making donations. They can change caller ID to make a call seem like it is local. Sometimes, scammers use names that sound similar to actual charities. Some scammers try to trick people into paying them by thanking them for a donation that was never actually made. Basically, if you are skeptical about a charity or organization, check it out or donate to a different worthy charity instead.
The AARP recommends confirming that the donation will be tax-deductible. “Only gifts to charities with 501(c)(3) are potentially tax-deductible. Check with the IRS to see if an organization has tax-exempt status and to learn more about charities and nonprofits,” states the AARP website.
Validating the identities of individuals requesting donations is also a way to keep your money safe. Scammers may pose as religious leaders or as people representing families who are going through difficult times. Making sure people are who they say they are is an important safeguard.
Don’t leave cash under your front doormat. This may seem obvious, but some scammers actually ask people to do just this. The same goes for gift cards. According to AARP’s website, relaying the serial number and PIN on a gift card to someone over the phone makes it almost impossible to recover your money.
Generosity during the holidays is always admirable and helping others is important. Let’s make sure the money goes to those who really need it during this holiday season – and always.