Criminals are increasingly taking advantage of Americans’ generosity, exploiting compassionate donors to line their own pockets. America ranks No. 1 in charitable giving on the World Giving Index, with U.S. charities receiving a record $471 billion in donations in 2020, according to the Giving USA Foundation.
Charity scams may happen at any time, but they often occur after disasters or emergencies. Scams may be linked to current events such as an international crisis, to a recurrent concern like a cure for a disease, or they may be tied to your past giving history.
Criminals might call you directly and make a plea for humanitarian aid. Some choose to impersonate legitimate organizations, while other con artists use a carefully crafted charity name to deceive you. Scammers may use social media posts, crowdfunding platforms, fake websites, emails, or even go door-to-door to get you to part with your hard-earned money.
Before you donate to a cause or organization, you should investigate the charity and visit websites such as Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, or the Better Business Bureau to do your research. Also be sure to ask how the charity will use your donation.
As you consider how you want to give, don’t let anyone:
- Pressure you, call you selfish, or make you feel guilty about deciding whether to donate.
- Persuade you to send money, provide personal information, or share your credit card or bank account with someone you don’t know or trust.
- Persuade you to donate using cash, gift card, cryptocurrency, or wire transfer.
- Tell you they can guarantee you will win a prize in exchange for a “donation” — that’s illegal.
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of a charity scam, report it.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.
- Contact the Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721.
- Submit an internet crime to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
- Reach out to your state’s consumer protection office.
- Inform your bank immediately if you shared your account details with a scammer.
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