Charity scams are on the rise in North America. The Covid-19 pandemic and the complicated political situation in the USA caused by the upcoming presidential elections have made more and more people be extra vocal about the causes they support. While some are taking it to the streets or presidential rallies, others are simply looking for charities that represent the cause that they support. No matter what cause people are willing to support, scammers try to take advantage of the turbulent times by tricking folks into giving them money. This is why we’ve decided to list some of the top ways hackers use to trick potential victims.
- Wiring funds, gift cards, cash and jewelry.
Charity organizations rarely ask to wire funds directly to them. In most cases, especially for smaller non-profit organizations, you are invited to use an online giving portal that oversees the money transfer process. Such portals often give you the option to donate using different types of credit cards or PayPal without the need to share your banking routing and account numbers or send anything via mail. Portals such as Charity Navigator screen registered charity organizations and make sure that your money reach the organization of choice.
- Time pressure.
Registered charity organizations avoid putting pressure on potential donors. If someone claiming to represent a charity organization is placing time-constraints on you, they are likely not entirely honest. Rushing donors into making a decision is a known practice for scammers. If you feel rushed, ignore the request and find a way to donate to the cause when you have more time, and you’ve done enough research.
Many organizations claim that giving to them makes your donation tax-deductible, but years later, when IRS eventually knocks on your door for an audit, people realize that they have been scammed. If you want to make sure that the donations you make are tax-deductible, visit the IRS website and look for the organization in the ‘Tax Exempt Organization Search.’ Do not donate unless the organization there matches the one you’ve been approached by.
- Similar sounding names.
You may get an email claiming to be from the National Rifle Association, but after donating, you may realize that you’ve just donated money to a company that fights for limiting the rights given by the second amendment, or your payment has reached the account of a hacker located on the other side of the world. If you wish to donate to a particular cause for a large non-profit organization, better go to their official website and click the ‘donate’ button. This is how you know for sure that the money has reached the right bank account.
- Changed caller ID.
Often scammers call you from cell phones that look like they are from your local area. However, they might be located ten thousand miles away from you. So always research before you commit to giving, especially if the invitation is coming from a cold call. Spending a little time researching what you are supporting will ensure that the money you are giving away will end up in the right hands supporting the right cause.
Cybercriminals are getting more and more creative, so if you notice any of the red flags mentioned above, delay the donation and take your time to research further. If you have even the slightest doubts about a specific organization, consider giving to another charity that supports the same cause. Many registered organizations are worth supporting. And if you come across a fishy organization that claims to be a charity, report it to FTC.gov/complaint and your state regulator.