Beware of Charity Scams
It's a terrible fact: Scam artists disguised as charities are looking to make money from your sympathetic wallet. It's happens through e-mail, telephone calls, and even knocks at the door. Some recent scam-related e-mails ask for assistance for "emergency relief funds" or "victims' survivor funds" and direct recipients to contribute money to the American Red Cross through scammers' Web sites. But the link actually leads to a Web site that isn't associated with the Red Cross.
Bankrate.com in North Palm Beach, Fla., offers these tips to ensure your donations go to the right cause:
- Ask lots of questions. How much of your contribution goes to victims and how much goes to administration? Who does this contribution assist?
- Don't be pressured to make an immediate commitment. Deadlines are a good indication it's a scam. Telephone scammers are good at sounding believable, even when they're lying, so don't rush.
- Ask for and wait until you receive written material about any offer or charity.
- Verify the solicitor's identity by asking for--and calling or writing--the organization's headquarters. Contact your local charity office or the Better Business Bureau to confirm validity.
- Don't give credit card information over the telephone or online (unless you placed the call to an organization you already trust).
- Send a check, never cash, and make it out to the organization, not the individual collecting the donation.
- Contact local authorities or the FBI if you can't verify an organization or if you're suspicious of the solicitation.