TAMPA, Fla. — In the midst of the holidays, you may be looking to spread the cheer by donating to those in need. But make sure you do your research first because scammers are looking to cash in over the holidays.
- Officials warn of new holiday scams, urge people to be careful
- Better Business Bureau releases top 12 scams to watch out for this holiday season
- How to keep your packages safe from porch pirates this holiday season
The Federal Trade Commission provides the following information for spotting a charity scam.
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.”
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.
If you come across a scam online, you can report it.
Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
Division of Consumer Services
2005 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-6500
(800) HELP-FLA (435-7352)
Office of the Attorney General
State of Florida
The Capitol PL-01
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050
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 Crowdfunding, Social Media, and Fundraising Platforms 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.