Disasters and tragedies often bring out the best in people who want to help others in need. Unfortunately, these incidents may also attract scammers who take advantage of people’s goodwill. They may create fake charity websites or use names that sound like legitimate organizations to steal money or personal information.
Crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe have become popular ways to raise money quickly for all sorts of causes, including disaster relief. However, scammers can also use these sites to collect money for fake causes which makes it difficult to determine which fundraisers are legitimate and which are not.
To avoid falling victim to a charity scam, here are a few tips to keep in mind when donating money online after a disaster or tragedy:
Donate to charities you know and trust with a proven track record of dealing with disasters. Stick to well-established charities or, when possible, donate directly to local non-profits through their existing donation sites.
Research the organization yourself – especially if the donation request comes from social media. Make sure the charity is legitimate by checking their website. Check with the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or Candid to verify their legitimacy and how your donation will be spent. Look for reviews by searching the charity’s name plus complaint, review, rating, or scam. Confirm the text number BEFORE you text-to-donate by calling the charity directly or visiting their website.
Be cautious about giving to individuals using crowdfunding sites. Giving to someone you know personally is safest. Read reviews and feedback from other donors to get a sense of the legitimacy of the fund. Also review the crowdfunding platform’s policies and procedures.
If you receive a phone call asking for a donation, ask for the caller’s name and the name of the organization they represent. Then, do your research before giving any money. Don’t be afraid to ask for more information or to say no if something seems fishy.
Don’t donate to anyone who insists you can only pay by cash, gift card, wiring money, or cryptocurrency. That’s how scammers tell you to pay. If you decide to donate, use a credit card for added protection against fraud.
If you suspect you have been the victim of a charity scam:
- Contact the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs at (800) 593-8222 or click here to file a complaint online
- Report the charity to the CA Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts at ca.gov/charities
- Report scams to ftc.gov
Donating to those affected by a tragedy is a wonderful thing to do. Just make sure you’re giving your money to a legitimate organization so it can be used to help those in need, rather than benefiting scammers. By taking a few precautions, you can ensure that your donations are going to the people who need it most.