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Criminals Pop Up To Take Your Charitable Contributions

Published: December 01, 2023 on our newsletter Security Fraud News & Alerts Newsletter.

Pop-ups seem to be popular these days. Pop-up restaurants, pop-up craft shows, pop-up markets of all types.  What else seems to pop up quite a lot this time of year are pop-up scams. They apply to all of the shopping scenarios as well as Giving Tuesday and even with the increase in the requests for charitable donations. While we are reminded of shopping safety all year round, we don’t hear as often about how to keep our donations in the hands of the organizations we intend to have them, rather than into the hands of cybercriminals.

The holidays bring out joy and caring, and many want to give money to organizations who do good for others. Cybercriminals understand this well and don’t miss a beat to take advantage of people’s sense of caring.

If you want to donate money to charitable causes, by all means do so. Just follow a few guidelines to keep your information safe and to make sure your donation goes to the right place.

  • Take some time to research the charities first. Make sure it’s reputable and legitimate.

  • Don’t give cash to people that show up at your door asking for funds for their charity. Get some literature or contact information from them and research the organization separately. If you feel good about it, you can donate online or get back in touch later.

  • If someone shows up at your door claiming to represent a charity, call the organization and ask if the solicitor is authorized to ask for donations on its behalf.

  • Don’t provide any information to someone who calls you out of the blue. Get a phone number off the Internet and call back. Don’t use email addresses or phone numbers given to you by an unsolicited caller.

  • Avoid donating with cash. Using other methods allows you to keep records of any donations made in case you need to report a scam.

  • Legitimate charities will not ask for donations in the form of gift cards or wire transfers. They will gladly take checks, and many prefer payment card donations on their websites.

Take some time to check websites that provide information on various charities, complaints about them, and how they use charitable contributions before giving.

The FTC provides additional tips to know to avoid:

  • Those that fail to provide detailed information about identity, mission, costs, and/or how the donation will be used.

  • Those that won’t provide proof that the contribution is tax deductible.

  • Any that use a name that is very similar to that of a better-known and reputable organization.

  • Organizations that thank you for a pledge you don’t remember making or know you didn’t make and subsequently use that to try to convince you to “give again.”

  • Those that use high-pressure tactics, such as asking for your donation immediately, without giving you any time to think about it or do your own research.

  • Any that offer to send a send someone immediately to collect your donation.

  • One that makes any sort of guarantee of winning a sweepstakes in exchange for a contribution. You never have to make any type of donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes. That’s the law.

They also advise caution about the phone number that appears on the caller-ID. It’s easy to fake, so if you get an uneasy feeling about the caller, it doesn’t always mean it’s a legitimate charity on the other end of the line.

If you have been or suspect you may have been the victim of a charity scam, contact the FTC and report it. Information can be found on the FTC Complaint Assistant page of the FTC’s website. And remember that charities and non-profit organizations will gladly accept your donations year-round. So, there is no need to feel rushed with respect to what organization you should give.

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