You receive a call from your alma mater, or a knock on the door from a local sports team fundraiser. Fliers show up in the mail, encouraging you to save a manatee or feed a starving orphan. How do you decide who, or what, to help?
There are a few things to keep in mind before sending that payment, says the Federal Trade Commission. Namely, investigate any charity before giving money. While some may be a scam, with fraudsters hoping to gain your money by pulling at your heartstrings, others charities might be legit but not spend money in ways you would like.
The FTC recommends keeping these tips in mind to help identify charity scammers:
- Ask how the money will be spent and for detailed information about the charity's mission and costs. Fraudsters likely will refuse to provide this.
- Ask for proof that the contribution is tax deductible. If a fundraiser doesn't have it, they likely aren't legitimate.
- Does the charity's name sound a lot like that of a big, well-known charity? That could be the sign of a scam.
- Does the fundraiser pressure you to give money right away, without time to think over or research your decision? Scammers want you to give before discovering the fraud.
- Does the fundraiser ask for cash donations, offer to send someone to collect the money right away, or guarantee sweepstakes winnings? All of these things are signs of a charity scam.
A variety of sites exist to help you give money in ways that are legitimate and true to your values. To research a charity's trustworthiness and learn more about how leaders spend their funds, FTC officials recommend visiting the Better Business Bureau's charity giving site; Charity Navigator; Charity Watch; or GuideStar.
For more information visit the FTC's webpage on charitable giving.