5 tips to help you avoid charity scams

Landmark Bank can't commend you enough for donating to organizations that help those in need. It's human nature to want to give back, but you have to be careful when doing so.

Unfortunately, fake organizations are out that will try to take advantage of your charitable spirit and scam you out of money. If you're going to make a donation, here are five tips to help you avoid charity scams:

1. Research before writing a check

First, you'll want to find out as much information on a charity beforehand as possible. If you have a certain cause in mind, conduct an internet search to find suitable charitable organization. Pay particular attention to the websites you find, as well as social media accounts. These are often good signs to help you determine if an organization is legitimate.

Yet, scams are sophisticated these days and an online presence may still trick you. According to Charity Navigator, pay attention to the website address. Most charitable organizations end in .org, not .net or .com.

A web address containing many numbers is also a red flag and usually represent a scam. Even if everything looks clean, you still can't be careful enough. Avoid websites that ask for personal information like your Social Security or checking account information.

To ensure you don't fall for scams while researching, look for charities listed as authentic. Charity Navigator and Charity Ratings contain a list of reputable organizations, or you can donate to well-known ones such as United Way, the American Heart Association or Salvation Army. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure a charity is real.

Donation jar.Always research an organization before making a donation.

2. Avoid suspicious solicitations

Sometimes, organizations pretending to be real seek you out for charitable donations. Avoid these pleas.

Often, these solicitations will come by email. While you may receive newsletters and messages from charities you've donated to in the past, be wary of emails from senders you don't recognize. Furthermore, never open messages containing attachments because these may be phishing attempts.

Keep in mind solicitations don't always arrive in digital messages. Some scam organizations will call your number and try to pressure you into handing over money. The callers may sound legit, but the Federal Trade Commission stated scams can be heard if you listen closely.

The FTC said scam calls usually sound urgent and often use disasters as a way to scam you out of money. If you receive what sounds like a suspicious call, but aren't sure if it's a scam, ask for the charity's name, address and phone number. Take this information and research the organization to see if it's real.

3. Don't donate on the spot

Similar to phone calls, some scam organizations may try to pressure you to donating on the spot in person. These pleas may seem overwhelming, but keep your composure.

Real charitable organizations will always accept your gifts, no matter the month. If you find yourself in a high-pressure situation, it's likely a scam. Politely decline and continue on with your day.

4. Donate with a credit card

Even if you're extremely careful, you still might make the mistake of donating to a fraudulent organization. Luckily, there are steps you can take to ensure you don't lose money or suffer financial hardships.

"Credit cards offer more levels of protection against fraud."

First, consider making a donation by credit card instead of cash or wire transfer. Credit cards offer more levels of protection against fraud. As long as you inform your card provider of the scam, they'll open an investigation and likely refund you the amount specified. And for added measure, you'll also be issued a new card.

5. Keep records

If you're donating $250 or more, make sure you receive a letter confirming the donation. The IRS stated donations of $250 or higher must come with the following:

  • A receipt identifying contribution amount.
  • No goods or benefits were given to the donor in exchange for the contribution.

If you don't receive this information, call your bank and cancel your donation and put it toward a reputable organization.

While it's unfortunate there are charity scams, you should follow the above tips to ensure you don't fall for one.

For more information about smart ways to manage your finances, contact Landmark Bank.

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