Donate wisely and avoid charity scams

Hurricane season officially kicks off June 1, which means hurricanes, tornados, fires, and other natural disasters will be in the news. While it’s heartbreaking to see people lose their homes and businesses, it’s more appalling when scammers exploit such tragedies to appeal to your sense of generosity.

If you’re looking for a way to help, the Federal Trade Commission urges consumers to be cautious of potential charity scams. Before donating, make sure you research the organization. Search online with the name of the organization plus the word “complaint” or “scam.” This is a good way to find out if the charity is legit. It’s also good to make sure they will use the money as promised.

Here are some additional tips to consider:

·         Donate to charities you know and trust with a proven track record with dealing with disasters.

·         Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events. Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.

·         Designate the disaster so you can ensure your funds are going to disaster relief, rather than a general fund that the charity could use for any of its work.

·         If you get donation requests by email, never click on links or open attachments in e-mails unless you know who sent it. You could unknowingly install malware on your computer.

·         Don’t assume that charity messages posted on social media are legitimate. Research the organization yourself.

·         When texting to donate, confirm the number with the source before you donate. The charge will show up on your mobile phone bill, but donations are not immediate.

·         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.

·         Be leary of anyone that wants you to rush into making a donation. That’s how scammers operate.

·         Some fake charities use names that sound like legitimate charities. This is why it’s so important to research the exact name of the charities.

Finally, in the wake of the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, be aware that donations to foreign organizations generally are not tax deductible. If tax deductions are important to you, make sure the group is established in the U.S. Check the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search to see if your donation would be tax deductible. Remember that donations to individuals, like in crowdfunding sites, are not tax deductible.

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