With the Christmas season before us, it is a wonderful feeling to reach out and help our fellow Americans who may be a little less fortunate. Whether it is a neighbor, friend or charity, we can easily find someone in need. However, if you are considering helping a local or national charity, it makes good sense to do a little homework before you give. Even if it is an organization with glowing recommendations in your community, please take the time to do your research prior to giving. Most of the time, charities are doing outstanding work, but occasionally there is a bad actor existing just to scam you
Do some research online - Type in the name of the charity and “complaint”, “review”, “rating” or “scam” into the browser on your computer. It is quite amazing how much you can find out using your computer or smart phone. Also, you can access your state's attorney general office who often licenses charitable organizations and may keep records of complaints.
Be smart how you contribute - It is not a good idea to pay with cash, gift card or wiring funds. To be on the safe side, only pay with a credit card or check. Keep good records of all transactions. Monitor your statement often to ensure you are billed for what you agreed to.
Beware of the scam artist's crafty tactics - On many occasions, scammers will try and get you out of your comfort zone by rushing you into making a donation. They can also make their call appear that it is coming from a local number. On other incoming calls, fraudsters may guarantee sweepstakes winnings or claim your donation is tax deductible when it is not.
Charities setup to take advantage of disasters and tragedies - With all of the tragic storms hitting the East Coast and Gulf Coast, be extra cautious of organizations who may be trying to take advantage of America's generosity during these types of tragedies. Most organizations are legitimate, but occasionally a bad actor will surface.
If you believe a charity scam is underway, report it to your state's consumer protection office. Additionally, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC doesn't resolve the matters, but it does track charity fraud claims and sues companies on behalf of consumers. Find out more: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt
If you have a gut feeling about things not being on the up and up, there are many other terrific charities you can donate to. We want to encourage you to find a charity to give to during the holidays, but always remember to spend a few minutes doing your research to make sure your money will be used wisely.