‘Tis the Season for Charity Fraud

Photo courtesy of Flickr and Earl Neikirk/Bristol Herald Courier

It’s that time of year again – shopping for the perfect gifts, sending greeting cards, and baking thousands of sweet, flaky calories.  Oh, and let’s not forget the charities.  After all, ‘tis the season for giving.  Doesn’t it seem like everyone (from the bell ringer in front of Wal-Mart to the telemarketers) is asking you to open your heart and your wallet?  Unless your name is Ebenezer, I’ll bet you’ve given or will give something to those in need this holiday season.  Good for you.  But do you know to whom you’re giving your hard earned dough?  Do you really?

Charity fraud and charity scams run rampant this time of year, and often are difficult to spot.  The following tips can help you be sure your money is going where you think it is and not into the pockets of scam artists.

  • Decide which charities you want to contribute to, and then contact them.
  • Give to the charities you already know.  Research those you’ve never heard before or have names similar to well-known charities.
  • Ask for identification – name, address and phone number of the charity.  Ask questions about the organization.  What is its purpose?  How are the funds used?  What portion of funds go to the charity?  Are the contributions tax deductible? Legitimate charities are used to being asked questions.  If they refuse to answer, have no answer or you are uncomfortable with their answer, don’t give.
  • Verify with the organization’s office to be sure a drive is indeed authorized in your area.
  • Don’t give in to high-pressure tactics or guilt trips.
  • Be suspicious of charities that only accept cash, solicit money through email or claim to be raising money for local police and firefighters.
  • Write your check to the charity, not to the solicitor, and get a receipt with the organization’s name on it.

If you have any other tips, please leave them in the comment section.  Happy holidays and happy, safe giving!

– KM Fawcett

4 responses to “‘Tis the Season for Charity Fraud

  1. Excellent post and a good reminder to be cautious and generous. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Very nice! Some extra ideas from the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA), the charity where I work:

    -Review third-party ratings and comments: The American Institute of Philanthropy and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance rate charities to ensure they meet the highest financial and accountability standards.
    -Review financial information: All nonprofit organizations must submit form 990 to the IRS. This publicly available form provides detailed information on an organization’s financial and operational activities.
    -Ensure the organization’s values and mission align with yours: The values and mission of charities can be very different. Most charitable organizations will list their values and mission on their website.

    Thanks again for such an important post!
    ~Shanxi from CFCA

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