Christmas is coming!! People are in the mood for giving, and all around you there are more ways than ever to do so. At the office, in your neighborhood, at school….simply everywhere you look there is a good cause that becomes apparent during the holidays.
As wonderful as that is, there is unfortunately also reason to be wary. Just look at the recent death of the Crocodile Hunter. Sadly, some swindlers saw the opportunity to turn tragedy into cash, and the same rings true during this year-end yuletide season.
How do you see to it that you and your donations are protected?
Bennett Weiner of the Wise Giving Alliance, a national charity-monitoring organization affiliated with the Council of Better Business Bureaus gives some sound advice:
“The vast majority of charities out there are responsible and accountable, but people shouldn’t forget that while everyone is thinking about helping the needy and charitable giving, there are cons out there who hope to take advantage of them”
Weiner said con artists will try low- and high-tech means to get people’s money. One old con that’s still around involves someone calling on the phone and asking for money for a known charity and emphasizing that they accept credit card donations.
“Normally you wouldn’t think of giving your credit card number to a stranger on the phone,” he said. “But this is for charity. So people get taken in every year by this gimmick.”
The way to avoid such a scam is to ask for printed material about the charity. That will give you time to check out the charity — and confirm the address — before you send a donation, preferably by check, he said.
A high-tech scam generally involves an e-mail that contains a link to a named charity.
“If you open the Web site, it looks like the charity’s Web site, but it’s a false front,” Weiner said. “The con artist is trying to get your credit card number or other information for ID theft.”
Jody Wahl, president of the National Association of State Charity Officials, which is made up of state government officials who oversee charities, said a major concern at the holidays involves solicitations by lesser-known charities. Sometimes these groups adopt a name or slogan similar to a well-known group or a logo that mimics one from a better-known charity.
Weiner of the Wise Giving Alliance said there are a number “red flags”
Excessive pressure. Someone demanding an on-the-spot gift should raise concerns.
Overly emotional appeals. The solicitor brings tears to your eyes but doesn’t tell you much about the charity.
Unknown appealer. You don’t recognize the name of the money-raising group. Before giving any money, check out the charity, both Weiner and Wahl advise. Go to the charity’s Web site and find out exactly what it does, who serves on its board, how it spends its money.
Then go to the Web site of a private monitoring group such as the Wise Giving Alliance and read their report on the charity, or try a national site like Guidestar, which keeps track of the Form 990s that charities must file with the Internal Revenue Service.