Many of us donate to a worthy cause year round. Unfortunately, just as there are good people trying to help others, there are also plenty of scammers out there. You want to feel good about where your money is going, and you want to make sure that you aren’t just lining the pockets of some huskster.
As you field phone calls and receive information from those purporting to help the less fortunate, watch out for the following red flags that might indicate you are dealing with a scam:
1. High-Pressure Phone Tactics
Someone insisting that you give money now, over the phone, is a huge red flag that you are probably dealing with a scam. Most legitimate charities don’t employ high-pressure sales tactics that make you feel like you need to donate immediately.
In some cases, scammers insist that you have to just donate, and they tell you time is too short to send you literature or let you look at a website. If a caller gets frustrated and tries to tell you that you need to donate immediately, hang up the phone.
Legit charities usually have no problem with you saying no. The caller might tell you they are under a deadline for a match, but they won’t pressure you, and once you say you need time to think about it, most legit charities will thank you and move on.
2. No Website
Who doesn’t have a website these days? Scammers, that’s who. If you get a phone call from an organization, and you can’t find a website, that’s a red flag. Most legit charities have websites that describe their mission, who they help, and even include success stories. Even local charities usually have a basic website that allows you to see where they are located and what their needs are.
If an organization doesn’t have a website, that’s an immediate red flag. That’s not to say that every worth cause worth donating to would have a website, but it simply means you need to investigate further. Legit charities want people to know they are out there and accept donations.
3. They Won’t Provide You with Their Tax ID
Charities have to apply to be tax-exempt organizations and you can call IRS to verify its legitimacy. If someone over the phone just cannot provide their Tax ID or there’s no way to find that out before you send money, then this is a major red flag. And it’s not totally safe just because they gave you a bunch of numbers either. Call 1-877-829-5500 to see if the charity is claiming to be who they are. This is also the definitive source for making sure your donation is tax deductible.
4. No One Wants to See You
Watch out if a caller doesn’t want to let you know where they are located. Ask to stop by if they claim to be local. Or, you can ask for a mailing address to send a donation. Legitimate charities are happy to let you have a tour or send them a donation through the mail.
Scammers, though, don’t usually have a mailing address. And they certainly don’t want you anywhere near their base of operations. When an organization comes up with an excuse as to why you can’t visit or send a donation to an address, you should watch out. There’s a good chance you’re dealing with a scammer.
I like giving to local charities best. I know where the money is going, and I can see the effects in my community. Most of the time, I actually know the people involved.
If you are unsure, you can check Charity Navigator or GuideStar for information about charities and how effective they are, including how much of their resources goes toward actually helping others.
There are many worthy causes that deserve your dollar’s attention, but you need to pay attention in order for the real charities to benefit the world. Do your part by taking time to vet out the details and you won’t be sorry to hear that your donations only enriched someone without really helping those in need.