Pittsburgh, PA - December 13, 2013 - The holidays are a time for giving. Making a contribution to a charity or organization is a great way to spread goodwill and holiday cheer. Unfortunately, scam artists also recognize the giving patterns of well-intentioned Americans around the holidays and attempt to capitalize on their generosity. Anyone can become a victim of a fraudulent charity or scam, as con artists continue to develop more creative and complex ways to trick unsuspecting donors.
There are several red flags to be cautious of when considering donating to a charity, including receiving solicitations that utilize similar names to those of well-established organizations. Some scammers may pose as representatives of legitimate charities that they have no actual connection with or will invent a fake charity altogether. Keep in mind that not all charities are created equal and certain organizations will retain higher percentages of donations for fundraising and marketing purposes than others. A careful donor should evaluate a charity’s overall programs, finances and administration before offering a donation.
“The holidays are one of the busiest times of year, but prospective donors should still take time to research a charity before offering funds,” said Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. “The knowledge acquired through research can help donors maximize the impact of their hard-earned money and make the most difference.”
Here are tips from your BBB to consider when giving money to charity:
Take your time - Don’t feel pressured to give money right away. A legitimate charity should accept your donation at any time and won’t pressure donors into giving immediately. Research the charity to make sure it’s a wise giving decision. Go to bbb.org/charity to verify that it meets BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. There are more than 11,000 free national charity reviews available through BBB Wise Giving Alliance. Donors should also check to see if a soliciting charity is registered with the PA Bureau of Charitable Organizations’ online database of charities.
Identify the charity - With countless charities in existence, it’s easy to confuse similarly-named organizations. Make sure to know which charity you’re supporting and ask for or identify a phone number and physical address. It’s recommended to donate to a charity after directly confirming its legitimacy, rather than giving in response to a phone call or by clicking an email link.
Think twice before donating in cash - Check or credit card contributions will be easier to track and dispute, if necessary. If donating by check, only make it out to the charity and not an individual. Never send a money transfer to an individual for a charity. Keep proof of any tax-deductible contributions for tax time.
Ask where and how your donation will be used - How much money a charity spends on the actual cause, as compared to how much is spent on fundraising and administrative costs is important. There are other factors to also take into consideration though, such as transparency and board activity.
Remember, you can donate to charities with items rather than money, such as hats, coats and toys. Also, consider donating your time to volunteer.
For more BBB Wise Giving tips, visit our website bbb.org/charity.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2012, consumers turned to BBB 124 million times for Business Reviews on more than 4.5 million companies and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 113 local, independent BBBs across the United States and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation.